That’s when the machine fell on top of them.
June 13, 2015 8:02 PM   Subscribe

On February 11th, 2011, Rosa Moreno lost both her hands in an accident at a factory in Reynosa, Mexico. Four years later, after her lawsuit against LG Electronics was dismissed on a technicality, she writes at the Guardian about the accident, the lawsuit, and her attempts to support her six children as a single parent and double amputee.

"It’s been four years since I lost my hands. I have trouble paying my mortgage, and I wonder: Was that first lawyer right? Will I end up on a bridge, holding a cup out in front of me?

... I’ve worked in factories most of my life. I know I am not the first person to be injured. But more needs to be done to help the workers who are making the products that so many Americans buy. We don’t ask for even a tiny share of the billions these companies make. We are just asking for enough to take care of our families and, when we are hurt, to take care of ourselves, too."

LG Electronics, who contracted with the factory where Moreno was injured, is one of the world's leading producers of flat screen televisions, cell phones, and other electronics. In 2013 they were the third largest appliance producer in the United States.
posted by galaxy rise (37 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh damn. I was just looking at LG displays yesterday. Whelp, time to look elsewhere.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:22 PM on June 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Not that I'm trying to defend LG (by any means), but where elsewhere is there to look? Are there electronics manufacturers that pay their workers well? Or even just don't treat them as subhuman? I suppose it's a matter of degrees.
posted by axiom at 8:42 PM on June 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why didn't LG quietly offer a big check upon the lawsuit being filed? Even if you're a completely heartless bean counter, avoiding the risk of a news outlet picking up the story must be worth something to LG.
posted by ddbeck at 8:57 PM on June 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


Compare LG's offer of 50,000 pesos with what Rosa Moreno would be entitled to as a federal US worker:
Federal workers are covered by the Federal Employee Compensation Act (FECA). ... A lost hand is paid 244 weeks’ compensation. ... If you completely lose one of these limbs or digits, say through an amputation, or if you completely lose all function, your permanent disability is 100 percent. This means you’re entitled to all of the weeks of benefits listed in the schedule.
244 weeks/hand × 2 hands × 5,200 pesos / 4 weeks = 635,000 pesos = $41,000 USD

I'm sure federal employees are compensated more than private ones, and there are probably state-level and per-industry differences, and some would go to taxes or random fees, but you would still expect to be end up with hundreds of thousands of pesos for losing both hands. Even if Mexico isn't being held to the same standard as the US, 50,000 is an insult.
posted by Rangi at 8:58 PM on June 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


There is an official site to help her raise money for her and her family, as well as a GoFundMe someone has set up to help her get flexible prosthetic hands.

(Note: I have no connection to either, and have no idea how legit or not they are. Just found them after reading the linked Guardian article.)
posted by tittergrrl at 9:19 PM on June 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Gotta love corporations and their desire to protect the bottom line. Sickening.
posted by greenhornet at 10:35 PM on June 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


The owner turns his phrasebook to the first page and haltingly reads, "Tan pronto como usted puede conseguir la mano de esa máquina que está despedido."
posted by Faux Real at 11:08 PM on June 13, 2015


LG has more than enough profits to cover the pittance required to "make her whole". Not doing so is corporate sociopathy. We need laws that make sociopaths toe the line lest they be removed from society.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:17 PM on June 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


This is the second time today something on MetaFilter made me cry. This is horrifying. How could they ever justify not taking care of someone to whom this happened in their factory?
posted by limeonaire at 11:21 PM on June 13, 2015


Damn, I'm reading this on my LG phone.
posted by bardophile at 11:34 PM on June 13, 2015


“How Much Is Your Arm Worth? Depends On Where You Work,” Michael Grabell and Howard Berkesm Pro Publica, 05 March 2015 [Previously]

That article indicates that the U.S. average for an amputated hand is $144,930, and the maximum Federal payout is $460,352.



It's shameful to treat someone this way. The leadership of LG should be ashamed. It makes me so angry that companies get away with injuring workers and then get indigent when they want to be compensated fairly. (With implications of malingering and laziness baked into the law, of course.)

Hell, in Georgia, they got the law changed so that if they kill a worker, the maximum the employer has to pay is $525 a week or two-thirds of their average weekly wage, whichever is less. There's also a $150,000 maximum for a surviving spouse with no children, unless they remarry or cohabitate in a "meretricious relationship." No really, that's what the law says.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:06 AM on June 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


Corporations are a disease.
posted by bleep at 12:45 AM on June 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


Why didn't LG quietly offer a big check upon the lawsuit being filed? Even if you're a completely heartless bean counter, avoiding the risk of a news outlet picking up the story must be worth something to LG.

So what if a news outlet picks it up? People aren't going to boycott LG out of business over this because they know it won't make any difference, that any company would do this or already did it. There's so much sick shit out there. Even if John Oliver does a piece on it I'll just put LG's logo all over the airwaves and into our brains so it will seem familiar when it's time to pick out a new TV.
posted by bleep at 12:48 AM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


If there truly is no such thing as bad publicity then LG should have just hired her as their new mascot.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:56 AM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


The whole setup is miserable. Six kids at home. Single parent. Overnight shift at a shitty job. That is plenty right there. She was doomed. I'm not sure why Americans are singled out in the article but as I type on my Foxconn device I wonder how much human hamburger went into my phone, my clothes, my drywall, my city and my freedom. What would fair and just look like and why aren't we closer in 2015.
posted by drowsy at 4:20 AM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why didn't LG quietly offer a big check upon the lawsuit being filed?

They might have done that. All we know is that she sued. They may have offered her a settlement, they may not have.
posted by jpe at 4:29 AM on June 14, 2015


I just wrote a comment on the LG Customer Support page, suggesting that they pay for prosthetics for her so that she could work again. Maybe if enough people ask, LG will do it. It would be great publicity for them, a gracious and positive gesture that wouldn't cost much to them and she might be able to work again.
posted by gt2 at 4:59 AM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


If the case was dismissed because LG was not properly noticed, I expect that it was dismissed without prejudice and that the case could be refiled with proper notice to LG.

Further, if the machine she was using malfunctioned, it seems to me that there's potential for a case against the manufacturer of the machine itself, which may not be LG.
posted by amro at 5:32 AM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Even if she can refile against LG, she's got some big hurdles, since she's suing a US company in the US for an accident in Mexico while in the employ of a totally different Mexican company.

And, on top of that, workers comp schemes will typically preclude suit.

The case may have been dismissed on a "technicality" this time, but it'll be a hard path even if she can refile.
posted by jpe at 5:47 AM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


And, on top of that, workers comp schemes will typically preclude suit

I'm not clear on whether this was a workers comp case or not, but a workers comp case would not preclude filing suit against the manufacturer of the machine she was using, at least in my state.
posted by amro at 7:18 AM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's also a 2011 accident, I imagine the statute of limitations has run, but I don't know Texas law. I'd be curious what's up witn the dismissal, was LG doing some shady or did her lawyer make a mistake or what.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:57 AM on June 14, 2015


For the record, LG is a Korean multinational.

Texasobserver.org. has a useful write-up on this lastest disgrace, and the whole maquiladora thing in general.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:20 AM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


True, but they have a US sub that was the named defendant.

I'm guessing the idea was to try to get around the fact that Mexican workers comp law would preclude suit. Tough to know without any of the court docs, though. It'd be nice if the Guardian added some links to the complaint and answer.
posted by jpe at 8:30 AM on June 14, 2015


Thanks for the link, IndigoJones. This paragraph is particularly horrifying:
"At the factory, the general manager told Cira and the other workers that Rosa was at fault because she’d been too tired and wasn’t paying attention. But the machine had safety mechanisms to prevent accidents like the one Rosa had suffered. A worker had to press two buttons simultaneously to lower the press. This ensured that a worker didn’t have her hands inside the machine when the 200-ton press came down. Cira said she spoke to a maintenance man at the factory who confided to her that machine 19 hadn’t been properly maintained for months because taking it offline would slow production. Cira said she begged the man to come forward and testify on Rosa’s behalf, but he was too afraid of losing his job."
There's also a description of the role NAFTA played in creating these conditions. I was already against the TPP (as are international labor organizations) but this is motivation to fight harder.
posted by galaxy rise at 8:53 AM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Compare LG's offer of 50,000 pesos

LG didn't offer her anything. Her employer and the owner of the factory she worked at offered her the settlement. She didn't accept it and was awarded 220,000 pesos.

Admittedly a token amount for what she suffered but that is what Mexico's law allowed.

She then decided to go up the chain. So she sued LG who she hoped would "quietly offer a big check upon the lawsuit being filed"

However unless I am missing something and please correct me if I have, but LG was just a customer/client of HD Electronics, her employer, the company liable for her injuries.

Why should LG pay for her injuries? They didn't cause the accident and couldn't have prevented it.

LG Electronics, which contracted with the factory where I worked.
They just contracted the factory to sell them x number of product.


HD Electronics is a world-wide supplier in LCD and Plasma TV metal parts.
HD Electronics contracts with numerous companies. Why single out LG Electronics except that they have deep pockets and located in Texas
posted by 2manyusernames at 9:46 AM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why should LG pay for her injuries? They didn't cause the accident and couldn't have prevented it.

Because this is how big name companies avoid taking the blame for horrendous working conditions. Contract to a contractor who contracts out the labor. It's all so they can claim plausible deniability. At some point, we have to say enough is enough, and putting more businesses between you and the worker still holds you culpable for their mistreatment.

Jon Oliver explains.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:37 AM on June 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


Maybe. But they may also have a legitimate business reason for using a vendor.
posted by jpe at 10:43 AM on June 14, 2015


Maybe. But they may also have a legitimate business reason for using a vendor.

I don't think anyone's arguing that contracting shouldn't exist - just that companies bear some legal or at least social responsibility for the abuses their contractors commit.

This (devastating) Pro Publica article, Temporary Work, Lasting Harm, focuses on temp work rather than contracting, but highlights that these issues are entangled:
The lightly regulated blue-collar temp world is one where workers are often sent to do dangerous jobs with little or no training. Where the company overseeing the work isn’t required to pay the medical bills if temps get hurt. And where, when temp workers do get injured on the job, the temp firm and the company fight with each other over who is responsible, sometimes even delaying emergency medical care while they sort it out.
posted by galaxy rise at 11:47 AM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


companies bear some legal or at least social responsibility for the abuses their contractors commit.


The question is whether they should, and it seems reasonable to me to look at the shareholders, board, and officers of the vendor, and the amount of control exercised by the vendee.
posted by jpe at 12:47 PM on June 14, 2015


IndigoJones: “Texasobserver.org. has a useful write-up on this lastest disgrace, and the whole maquiladora thing in general.”
I'm infuriated to find out that all the maquiladora workers are required to join a union and pay dues, but the union has been worse than useless.

As for the ties between LG and HD Electronics, in that Texas Observer article IndigoJones linked — thank you very much, IJ — del Bosque reports that LG says HDE is not a subsidiary. On the other hand, LG is HDE's only client. The situation is complicated by the all too common practice of not actually hiring the people who do the work. HDE contracts with the Human Resources employment agency, and that's who Moreno actually worked for. So, like the sinking of the Vasa, nobody is actually responsible.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:23 PM on June 14, 2015


So many things to say.

All things live and die. Corporations do not. Their actions are just as unnatural as they are. Think about the actions that the banks took prior to 2008 with mortgages, re-insurance and Collateralized Debt Obligations. A human being would not crash the whole world because their would be hell to pay. They acted as if they could not be harmed by whatever happened. Turned out, they were correct too. No too much pain...lots of pay out...

Seriously though, corporations should have a max-lifespan of 50 years. At that time, they must fold, pay out shareholders and wait a few years to re-incorporate if they wish to.

The sexism that women Maquiladora workers face is high. They are hired only because they are women (and can be "controlled easier"), then they are paid less and segregated from men in the same work environment.

In Mexico they say "If you don't work, you don't eat." This situation cries out for real justice and the government officials who are actively being payed off by LG are not going to be quick in providing her with any restorative justice.

Finally, these are the hidden costs of super-inexpensive consumer goods. We don't hear much about it but when we do, it is very upsetting. I remember meeting guys who worked for Hyundai in Tijuana who were doing some welding and riveting. Their safety gear? Newspapers tied around their thighs and forearms. They still had the scars to show on their necks and chests.

Humanity...ah humanity....
posted by zerobyproxy at 1:24 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not that it will do anything, but about 95% of the comments on LG's Facebook page seem to be about justice for Ms. Moreno.
posted by blueberry at 9:32 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


blueberry: “Not that it will do anything, but about 95% of the comments on LG's Facebook page seem to be about justice for Ms. Moreno.”
Yeah their reply is uninspiring. They're cut and pasting it into every thread.
Our hearts and thoughts go out to Ms. Rosa Moreno for the terrible accident that occurred in a contract manufacturer’s plant four years ago. We have always strived to maintain a safe working environment and in light of this tragedy, we tried even harder to insure that something like this never happens again at any supplier’s site. While we are making progress, we recognize that this is an ongoing process which requires much monitoring and education.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:47 PM on June 14, 2015


ob1quixote: "I'm infuriated to find out that all the maquiladora workers are required to join a union and pay dues, but the union has been worse than useless"

This is not a maquiladora thing, this is a Mexican union thing. They're basically all useless mafias.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:29 PM on June 14, 2015


Maybe. But they may also have a legitimate business reason for using a vendor.

Yes, they do. There are several very legitimate reasons to use a vendor, or contract manufacturing.

The subcontractor may already have the equipment necessary to make the component the primary manufacturer (LG in this case, I will refer to as prime) needs. They also may have expertise, or at least the personnel. They certainly have the space, and facilities.

The mobilization costs - renting the space, hiring and training workers, buying or fabricating equipment, and so on - all those are amortized in the cost the contractor charges the prime. The prime saves money by bearing the proportion of costs only during the run time of the manufactured component.

Once the component run is complete, the prime is done with the contractor, at least for the time being. The prime doesn't have to worry about laying off staff, closing costs, administrative costs, and so on. Again, those costs are amortized in the price the sub charges, and the prime isn't left holding the bag when the run is complete.

Even the big guys do this - Sony, Netgear are two who come to mind. I was in a contract manufacturing plant in Shenzhen last year, and personally saw those lines being produced. People think that the big firms like that have pristine robotic assembly lines, but no, unless it's a *massive* run, it's all put together by human beings in ugly concrete buildings in a shitty part of town.

Here's the deal, though. The prime gets prices from various subcontractors, and generally will go with the cheapest one. These prices can be pennies difference per unit. It's a *very* competitive business.

It's entirely the prime's prerogative to do it this way. But the system pushes everyone to compete by slashing costs every way they can. Every way. When you are dealing with commodities, such as electronic components, and manufacturing processes that have already been pared down to the most efficient, effective, or only way to produce something, you are left with few other places to cut corners.

So the subcontractor is forced to use inferior facilities. Cheaper equipment. Less training. More labor hours, less worker compensation. Less safety. Literally, anything that can be cut, is cut. And most Westerners would be surprised at how much human beings can be induced to work in poor conditions, how much they will tolerate, and how little hope they have.

The prime does not enter this relationship for "plausible deniability" as someone up thread suggested. It's all about money, bottom line, period, full stop, end of discussion. Plausible deniability is just a perquisite. The prime can claim they pay "market rate", and they do, but the market rate is undercut for the reasons I outlined above. Nevertheless, the prime benefits from the cost-cutting measures that the subs implement. Ultimately, the consumers benefit.

There are ways around this. There are ways to ensure that workplace safety, worker compensation, worker care, and working conditions meet reasonable standards. But it's expensive. First, those things cost money, up front. Second, the prime has to insist on those things in the contract, and mean it. Third, the prime has to actively inspect and monitor the sub during the process, which means paying people to do that. And the prime has to enforce the contract terms, too. It's not enough to rely on the sub's word, or you are back where we started. The prime risks a component falling behind schedule if they do something like shut down a line for enforcement purposes. It is *very* hard for everyone involved to do things properly. I cannot understate how tempting it is for everyone involved to slack off.

Public works projects in the U.S. are done like that. Not only does an agency hire a contractor, but often there is a small army of inspectors looking at everything the contractor is doing. Not just examining the work, but enforcing labor compliance, secretly interviewing laborers to make sure they are not having to kick back wages and are being paid the minimum rates established in the contract. It's a huge headache.

This does make it difficult for smaller companies to comply with contract requirements. It clearly increases costs. Oh boy, does it increase costs. But at the end of the day, everyone is better off. The product is better, the workers are better, and the subcontractors still make money.

It's very easy for everyone involved to shake their heads when a worker is injured, then continue on. The process is bigger than everyone; it's dehumanizing. Everyone involved is at risk in some way. It's *extremely* difficult to take care of a worker who is no longer productive due to injury. Nobody wants to even think about it, much less do anything about it. It's a lot like a mob mentality where people stand around staring at an accident, without helping.

When we do the right thing, we literally have to fight human nature. It's more than just greed and corruption and oppression. You have to constantly fight like hell just to get people to do their damn job. Getting them to do it humanely? Safely? Ethically? Productively? It can be done...but difficult doesn't even begin to describe it.
posted by Xoebe at 3:16 PM on June 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Hell, in Georgia, they got the law changed so that if they kill a worker, the maximum the employer has to pay is $525 a week or two-thirds of their average weekly wage, whichever is less. There's also a $150,000 maximum for a surviving spouse with no children, unless they remarry or cohabitate in a "meretricious relationship." No really, that's what the law says.

This kind of law is in direct contradiction to the conservative idea that regulations on business are a hindrance, and that disputes and damages should be handled through the courts. But the same people who push this idea also push for tort reform, which results in severely restricted maximum relief for lawsuits against a corporation. If it doesn't cost a business much to severely injure or kill a worker, and if it's not otherwise a PR issue (which is one reason these factories are in developing countries), they will not be doing much to prevent it. It's just another cost of business.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:39 AM on June 16, 2015


One of my clients was a sheet metal shop that I had to replace 30 computers in. There was one old timer in there that told me some horrible stories about people losing fingers and hands in the line of work, and even one poor soul that wound up splattered on the walls after an unfortunate accident in a large press that stamped car hoods.
posted by daHIFI at 1:27 PM on June 17, 2015


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