A Mompreneur’s concern: “ How do I find a factory where the workers are treated well? ”

What people are saying about Mulberry Fields
“Your blog speaks to the many issues I have experience with doing business in China “ a company in California

The other day a mompreneur tweeted me and asked me “ How does one find vendors who treat their workers well ?” That was an interesting question I thought but one that is not easy to answer. I told her that some vendors treat their workers humanely and some rule with an iron fist. But to find out who is doing what you really have to go a factory and see for yourself. Generally if you spend a week at a factory in China you can get a very good feeling for how the factory is run, and how workers are treated. But you need to be able to speak Chinese to do so because you really have to talk to the workers yourself. At least that has been my experience. I imagine that if you have a translator with you and you have him/her ask the workers how they are treated, the answer you will always get is “fine.” Whether that is the answer the worker gave or not you really have no way of knowing.

But this is a good question because if you talk to workers and find out they are not treated well then this means the factory may have high turnover or there might be other problems that could impact your production. Not to mention the fact that it may be hard for you to sleep at night if you are working with a factory that does not treat its workers humanely. Unfortunately there is really no way to know this without, as I said, just going there and seeing for yourself.

I would add that you have to be careful about packing too many western conceptions of fair labor into your luggage when you go to China. Because there are many factories where the conditions are not good, especially in rural areas. And you can never be sure that what you might interpret as a violation of worker rights is in fact so. For example, I was once at a factory in Shenzhen and the paint fumes in one of the workshops absolutely overwhelmed me. I noticed that none of the workers were wearing masks. I asked the manager about this and she explained to me that she gave the workers masks but they just took them off. They simply found them uncomfortable. To verify this I asked a couple of workers when the manager was not around. And they told me they did not like the masks. And that is why there were white surgical maskes just strewn all over the floor in the workshop…

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