If you haven't heard of the Monster Cable Products labor controversy, it's a lesson in the unexpected ironies of our globalized economy. Judging from the Monster affair, cheap immigrant labor just isn't cheap enough anymore. Last October the company laid off about 120 workers, many of them Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants. Now Monster is — get this — exporting work to Mexico.
With the help of the Chinese Progressive Association, ex-Monster employees are organizing a boycott of the company's products (which include lots of iPod accessories). So far, local Democratic clubs and unions have signed on.
Last weekend the disgruntled boycotters held a “Monster Bash” outside the Hillsborough mansion of CEO Noel Lee, the self-proclaimed “Head Monster” (and himself the son of Chinese immigrants). Among those protesting was former employee Kanhu Wang, who spent 15 years packaging products for Monster. Considering his years of experience, Wang worked for cheap — the 54-year-old says he was making $12 an hour when he got the boot with everyone. He says he joined Saturday's Monster Bash protest outside. “He squeezed dry the best years of our lives and is moving on,” the Mandarin-speaking Wang said through an interpreter. “I think that this way of doing things is really inhumane.”
Wang, a father of two who says he's disabled after hurting his back while moving boxes at Monster, is still unemployed. So is his wife, one of 40 workers laid off by the company in December 2005. “I feel like he's brought a lot of shame onto the Chinese community by the way he's behaved,” Wang said.
On Feb. 13, the San Francisco Board of Supes passed a resolution urging Monster to provide a fair severance package and help the workers deal with the consequences of its decision. That resolution also mentioned how much cash the company has been making — at least $300 million in annual sales — and cited how much it's spent in self-promotion, like the more than $6 million it paid to secure naming rights to Candlestick Park. Oh, sorry. Monster Park. Wait, so does this mean we're all supposed to boycott 49er games?