Silicon Valley Profits From Systemic Labor Exploitation

The demigods of Silicon Valley like to present themselves as miracle workers, able to create electronic wonders (and wondrous profits) from nothing but their vaunted imaginations and entrepreneurial prowess.

The demigods of Silicon Valley like to present themselves as miracle workers, able to create electronic wonders (and wondrous profits) from nothing but their vaunted imaginations and entrepreneurial prowess.

Well, yes, that – plus their routine exploitation of workers. From illegal conspiracies that shut off upward mobility for their US employees to their disgraceful use of sweatshop labor abroad, a key component of their business plan is to squeeze billions of dollars a year from their workforce. Such is the price of “miracles.”

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A particularly crass example of this profiteering came to light in October, when a multimillion-dollar, multinational, digital printing outfit named Electronics for Imaging was nabbed and fined for a jaw-dropping act of wage theft. EFI executives had flown in eight IT workers from Bangalore, India, to Silicon Valley to help install the corporation’s computer system in its new headquarters.

Now, get ready, for here comes the jaw-dropper: EFI tried to get away with paying those workers what they would’ve made in India – $1.21 an hour – rather than paying California’s $8 an hour minimum wage. And get this: EFI even paid them in RUPEES, rather than dollars. Furthermore, the foreigners were made to work up to 122 hours a week, yet EFI paid no overtime wages.

Thanks to an anonymous tip, the Labor Department has now convicted EFI of gross labor law violations, forcing it to pay back the wages it stole. Yet the CEO, who raked in a $6 million paycheck as he ripped off the people he imported, offered no apology. EFI said it “unintentionally overlooked” US wage law, dismissing it as an “administrative error.”

No, it was a failure of moral character. But, since EFI was fined only $3,500, Silicon Valley will count that as an endorsement of its prevailing ethic of labor exploitation.

“EFI paid Indian employees working in us less than $2 an hour,” www.abc7news.com, October 22, 2014.

“Workers paid $1.21 an hour to install Fremont tech company’s computers,” www.mercurynews.com, October 22, 2014.

“US Tech Firm Fined for Underpaying Indian Workers,” www.abcnews.com, October 23, 2014.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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