Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Shanghai Electric Companies

Once upon a time, during my life as a corporate drone, the CEO deigned to visit our small regional laboratory. Before and during his visit, local management blocked employee access to the bathroom, because they didn't want any foul proletarian smells to offend the fastidious CEO, if he needed to use the facilities. My friend and former co-worker Jim K. may have been reminded of this episode when he told me about protests over bathroom restrictions at an electric company in Shanghai, China, as reported in Wang Zhenghua and Wang Hongy, "Company agrees to worker demands," China Daily (January 23, 2013):
Executives of a Japanese company made basic concessions to the demands of their labor force on Tuesday, after outraged workers trapped management staff, including 10 Japanese, in their offices when protesting against new regulations last week.

Eighteen management staff were stopped from leaving their offices by about 1,000 workers at Shanghai Shinmei Electric on Friday morning, and were not released until Saturday night when police managed to break through the crowd.

The company, which supplies switches and other components to electronics giants such as Sony, Sharp and Nokia, said it scrapped the proposed regulation that prompted the protest, and promised a pay raise.

"I have apologized many times, to the workers, to the police and to the labor inspection department," Li Xiupeng, the company's president, said at a meeting responding to the workers' demands on Tuesday.

"But not everybody is perfect. Who can be entirely free from error?" he added.

The protest was triggered by the new 49-item regulation proposed by the company that include terms that would have seen workers hit with fines of up to 50 yuan ($8) for being late for work, or using the toilet for more than two minutes at a time. Workers said they earn less than 2,000 yuan per month at the factory.
The least management could do is give all employees colostomy bags, so they won't need to go to the toilet during working hours.

This story interested me because my grandfather, Roy Emory Gilleland, was on the "management staff" of an electric company in Shanghai, China—Anderson, Meyer, and Co., Ltd. See Christopher Bo Bramsen, Open Doors: Vilhelm Meyer and the Establishment of General Electric in China (London: Curzon Press, 2001), p. 285:
In Shanghai Vilhelm Meyer's long-time colleague, R.E. Gilleland, was appointed deputy manager of A.M. & Co. in charge of daily operations.
Would he, I wonder, have ordered workers not to use the toilet for more than two minutes at a time? He died, in China, before I was born, so I don't know what kind of person he was. Here is a photograph of him working in his office:

At Disappearing Corners, I found this photograph of a former Anderson Meyer building in Shanghai, still standing:

All this is of no interest to anyone except me and my family, but this blog is a convenient place for me to keep these photographs.

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