After watching Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, I began to realize that mechanized, de-humanizing labor is still very much alive today. Pegatron is a prime example of a manufacturer whose workers are treated liked herds of sheep more so than valuable human resources. Pegatron is a Taiwanese supplier that manufactures computers and other communication-oriented goods for high-profile brands. Although Pegatron serves multiple customers, they are best known for their relationship with Apple, who utilizes Pegatron as a contract manufacturer for its iPhones.
Although Apple is one of the world’s most respected and widely recognized brands, they claim to not have been aware of the inhumane working conditions Pegatron employees are forced to endure. It is not out of the ordinary for an employee to work a twelve-hour shift, performing monotonous work on production lines, and there have been instances of individual shift lasting up to 16 hours and workers falling asleep on the line. The average workweek consists of 67 hours, and requests for time off are often ignored. There have been several instances of employee deaths that are most likely attributed to long hours and extreme exhaustion. More than 50% of employees are hired as temporary workers, despite Chinese law mandating that at least 90% of workers serve as full-time employees. The manufacturer has also been known to provide insufficient wages and hiring juvenile workers. Furthermore, factories are located far from employees’ homes, so they live in dorm-style houses provided by Pegatron. Unfortunately, these living areas are very cramped and are known to be inhabited by bed bugs and mold. Exposure to toxic chemicals and a lack of adequate training and safety equipment pose even more risks to employees’ overall health and well-being.
After conducting more research on other manufacturers with sweatshop-like conditions, it is unfortunate that even Pegatron is a far cry from the worst cases of dehumanization and slave labor in the workplace. Similar to the factory in Modern Times, Pegatron employees are treated like machines; they are expected to perform monotonous tasks for long hours until they are overtaken by extreme exhaustion. Rather than treating employees as valuable personnel, Pegatron hires the majority of its workforce as temps, who are over-utilized until they “break down” and quit. Then, similar to replacing parts on machinery, the next round of workers is brought in only to be subject to the same long hours and harsh conditions. Ironically, the one human aspect of these employees’ lives – their living quarters – is unfit for human inhabitance. It is unfortunate that the title, Modern Times, continues to stand the test of time, as slave labor and complete disregard for the well-being of humans are themes very relevant today.