The equivalent of an economic drone strike took place a few blocks northeast of our Omaha office.
Roy Jones was an hourly customer engagement employee at the Marriott Reservation Center in Omaha. As reported in The Wall Street Journal and Quartz, he liked a tweet by a Tibetan group congratulating Marriott for listing Tibet as a country.
As a result of liking a the tweet, the Chinese government ordered Marriott to suspend bookings at 300 hotels in China for a week. Mr. Jones was also terminated. Matt Hanson in the Omaha World-Herald reported, Jones was under traiend and over stressed when he liked the offending tweet. Jones had little idea that liking the tweet would be offensive to the Chinese.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping made news recently becoming the Chinese leader since Mao Zedong to rule for life. Back in 2016, I wrote a post pointing out Jinping’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies and his crackdown on employee-rights lawyers in China. I never thought the authoritarian Jinping regime would extend its reach into what writer Matt Stoller sarcastically described on Twitter as the “Chinese province of Nebraska.”
Nebraska’s junior senator, Ben Sasse, has made a pet issues out of the emerging threat of cyber-attacks from foreign powers. I would wonder what he thinks about a foreign power, China, having the power to fire one of his constituents?
Hanson concluded his article by concluding that Jones’ termination wasn’t right. I agree, but employment at-will allows employers broad legal protections when it comes to firing employees. In essence, employers have Jinping-like powers in the workplace. But when a foreign dictatorship has the power to fire an American worker, legislators and judges should re-think employment at-will or think about creating exceptions to that legal doctrine.
Though U.S. lawyers are generally free from official harassment, some corporate litigants have resorted to totalitarian tactics against plaintiffs’ attorneys. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff smacked down Uber for hiring a former CIA agent to investigate an attorney prosecuting a class action suit against the ride-hailing company. Investigation tactics included using fake reporters to try to probe the plaintiff’s attorney for personal information.
So while the rule of law is much more secure in the United States than it is in many other countries, it is still threatened by overheated rhetoric and underhanded tactics.
Today’s post comes from guest author Ryan Benharris from Deborah G. Kohl Law Offices in Massachusetts. The post is commentary about a blog post that firm owner Rod Rehm wrote last year, but I find it very timely. Sometimes it seems like the march to outsource is overwhelming. With that outsourcing comes increased profits for companies and “better” jobs for workers, but sometimes the cost is also really high.
There have been recent news stories about unsafe working conditions that caused building collapses or fires in garment and poultry processing factories. One of the more recent fires was made even the more tragic when almost all of the exits were locked. Even with these dangerous working conditions, it seems like there’s a story a month about more jobs moving overseas, whether in technology or manufacturing.
But Mr. Benharris prompts us to consider the cost of these cheap goods. It also seems that the big-picture of all costs — human, transportation, and manufacturing — for making a product are starting to be considered. Mr. Rod Rehm recently wrote in a blog post, “Good News for American Workers” about manufacturers taking a second look at the United States to produce or assemble products. And I hope that China’s Lenovo company opening an assembly plant in North Carolina is the start of a trend that leads to both foreign and United States companies recognizing the value that can be gained through decreased transportation costs and the goodwill that can be gained by operating with higher safety standards by locating manufacturing and assembly jobs in the United States.
Our colleague Rod Rehm shared a great post about Apple’s inhumane factory working conditions in China the other day. It gave us pause because we use Apple products in our business all the time. Whether it’s an iPhone to keep in touch with the office 24/7 or an iPad to help win our clients’ cases in the courtroom, these tools have become an integral part of our lives and the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the world. We hope that through advocacy companies like Apple will improve their working conditions and increase standards of living across the globe.
We also hope that as Apple moves to provide better working conditions for all of its workers and subcontractors, it can repatriate many of its jobs cost effectively. In the video linked in Rod’s post, Jon Stewart points out that right now Apple saves about 20% on the cost of production by outsourcing to China. We, as fans of Apple’s products, would be willing to split the difference with them and pay 10% more for their excellent products if they’d absorb the other 10% and treat their workers humanely.
Here’s Rod’s original post (reprinted with permission):
When Henry Ford invented the Model T, he revolutionized manufacturing and in the process created tons of high-paying jobs for ordinary people. His wealth was shared.When Steve Jobs and Apple invented the iPhone, Continue reading →