U.S. Businessman Trapped By Chinese Workers Is Freed | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

U.S. Businessman Trapped By Chinese Workers Is Freed

American businessman Chip Starnes finally left his factory in China on Thursday after he and a union negotiator worked out severance payments for Chinese employees.

Starnes had been stuck inside his medical supply parts factory since last Friday. That's when workers, fearing they were all going to be laid off and that the company wasn't going to compensate them fairly, blocked all of the exits out of the plant. Starnes couldn't get out.

He told Nightly Business Report that the first few days of confinement were challenging, but the pressure was mostly psychological. "First couple of days were very, very tough. Nothing physical, more mental type stuff going on. Standing around you, anywhere you walk, 14, 16, 18 people following you."

Starnes, who is a co-owner of Florida-based Specialty Medical Supplies, had laid off part of the factory's workforce and transferred their jobs to India, where he can pay workers lower wages, according to Bloomberg News. Some staffers had gotten severance pay, and the remaining workers started demanding severance, too.

Starnes spent six days in his facility before working out a compensation agreement with the workers even though they hadn't been laid off, reports The Associated Press. Details of the payments weren't discussed.

The AP notes that "it is not rare in China for managers to be held by workers demanding back pay or other benefits, often from their Chinese owners. Police are reluctant to intervene, as they consider it a business dispute."

"I just thought I'd have maybe a little more support on the outside from the local government or something, saying this isn't the right way, how to get something done," Starnes told Nightly Business Report.

Some Chinese workers believe direct action is the best way to solve labor matters rather than going through government channels, James Zimmerman, the former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce China told the Wall Street Journal.

"The perception of workers and petitioners in general is that they do not have effective legal remedies to protect their interests, and find that taking action into their own hands gets near-immediate results," Zimmerman said.

As for Starnes, he plans to rest and "let the dust settle, and we're going to be rehiring a lot of the previous workers on new contracts as of Friday," he told the AP.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

How Scientists Created A Typhus Vaccine In A 'Fantastic Laboratory'

Arthur Allen's new book The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl describes how a WWII scientist in Poland smuggled the typhus vaccine to Jews — while his team made a weakened version for the Nazis.
NPR

A Spicy Take On An Old Standby: This Ketchup's Ripe For Return

When life gives you tomatoes, make ketchup. With those fruits of the vine in season, All Things Considered reaches into the archives for a tomato ketchup recipe.
NPR

VA Nominee Steps Before Senate Committee

Robert McDonald, President Obama's nominee to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, is appearing before the Senate for his confirmation hearing. He faces the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
NPR

9/11 Commission Issues An Update On Anniversary Of Report

Saying that the world has changed "dramatically," the report's authors write that al-Qaida groups have spread, and the threat for cyberterrorism has grown.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.