How often does one actually consider where a product originates or under what conditions it was produced? While out shopping a consumers main focus is on obtaining the item needed or wanted not selecting merchandise based on the “made in” tag. It is common knowledge that many products are imported from other countries. However, little thought is given to the substandard conditions that workers endure to eke out a living to maintain a poverty stricken existence. In Mardi Gras: Made in China director David Redmon demonstrates the effect globalization and capitalism have on the lives of the owner and workers of a bead factory in China while contrasting the revelry of partygoers in New Orleans. Underpaid, overworked staff toil and live in an inhuman environment, exploited by a boss who demands much for little compensation while profiting greatly, to support themselves and their families.
In the film the factory owner, Roger Wong, is contracted by entities outside of China, from the U.S.A., to manufacture beads for the least cost possible to maximize the greatest profit. This exchange of money for goods is an example of capitalism and global distribution. Capitalism is described by Conley (2008) as “an economic system in which resources are privately owned; investments are determined by private decisions; and prices, production, and the distribution of goods are determined primarily by competition in an unfettered marketplace.” (p.372) Wong agrees to manufacture the beads for a certain amount of money. From this amount, he determines the cost involved in the production such as material, electricity and wages that detract from profit. After these considerations, a workforce is employed.
This particular factory employed predominantly young, uneducated, poor women and enforced strict standards of output, behavior and penalties. In interviews conducted by Redmon Wong stated that in his opinion, “female workers were easier to control” than males and therefore more desirable. (2010) Eleven to fourteen hour workdays were common, and workers were forced to put in overtime when needed. The factory runs twenty-four hours a day and workers might receive Sundays off. Unlike other countries, Chinese workers receive little paid time off. Conley used a graph to illustrate the number of paid vacation days and holidays; China is on the bottom with no paid vacation days and only 12 paid public holidays. (p.387) Penalties or disciplinary actions described as “punishment” by Wong for not meeting quotas, inferior quality, or breaking rules, were harsh and in his opinion necessary. (Redmon, 2010)
Punishment in the form of pay cuts, or fines, for a specific amount of time, were used to enforce conformity. Besides being fined for unmet quotas, inferior quality, and failure to turn off a machine, if caught talking during a shift a worker was fined one day’s pay and if caught in the dorm of the opposite sex the fine was one month’s pay. In an environment where workers...