Challenging the Chip

Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Electronics Industry

Edited by Ted Smith, David Sonnenfeld, and David Naguib Pellow
Book Cover

PB: $32.95
EAN: 978-1-59213-330-7
Publication: Jun 06

HC: $90.50
EAN: 978-1-59213-329-1
Publication: Jun 06

Ebook: $32.95
EAN: 978-1-59213-331-4
Publication: Jun 06

376 pages
6 x 9
22 tables, 6 figures, 37 halftones, 3 maps

A revealing look at the dark side of the electronics industry and global efforts to move it toward greater sustainability and accountability

Read the Foreword and Chapter 1 (pdf).


From Silicon Valley in California to Silicon Glen in Scotland, from Silicon Island in Taiwan to Silicon Paddy in China, the social, economic, and ecological effects of the international electronics industry are widespread. The production of electronic and computer components contaminates air, land, and water around the globe. As this eye-opening book reveals, the people who suffer the consequences are largely poor, female, immigrant, and minority. Challenging the Chip is the first comprehensive examination of the impacts of electronics manufacturing on workers and local environments across the planet.

Contributors to this pioneering volume include many of the world's most articulate, passionate and progressive visionaries, scholars and advocates. Here they not only document the unsustainable and often devastating practices of the global electronics industry but also chronicle creative ways in which activists, government agencies, and others have attempted to reform the industry-through resistance, persuasion, and regulation.


"(A) poignant expose of the environmental, public health and labor rights abuses of an industry that has come to symbolize progress and prosperity in the public eye. This broad anthology identifies the dark underbelly of the electronics revolution and seeks to ignite discussions between labor, environmentalist and human rights activists about how to address industry misconduct...a well-rounded understanding of challenges and struggles in the global electronics industry."
Multinational Monitor

"At first glance, this is an oft-told tale well told once more.... Taken together, the book's three parts present a cradle-to-grave (i.e., manufacture to disposal) approach to the industry and its problems. Further, the authors, a mixture of academics and activists, are not content merely to describe problems; they also advocate solutions to the challenges posed by this industry."
The Law and Politics Book Review

"With twenty-five chapters, much of the value of this volume lies in the encyclopaedic overview it provides of conditions in electronics manufacturing around the world...There are fascinating details strewn throughout the book...There is a valuable list of web resources and relevant organizations....The editors provide useful introductions to the volume and each section...but the strength of the book lies in the richness and variety of the empirical material rather than in any overarching explanations or insights. This book is an important intervention in significant public debate."
Contemporary Sociology

“This sweeping, ambitious, highly substantive panorama of environmental outrages perpetrated by the electronics industry and its handmaiden governments and inspectorates is nothing if not concrete, literal, rich, and entirely convincing….Challenging the Chip is a valuable resource document, a must-read for anyone wanting to understand the substance of environmental changemaking in the 21st century."
Environmental Politics

"Challenging the Chip is the story of those who valiantly fight to make the production of microchips a humane process and the products of chips safe for the environment.... each of the essays provides valuable insight into one or more aspects of the chip industry.... Challenging the Chip will be part of an effort to place the struggles of electronics workers front and center in the fight for social justice.... It is certainly a must-read for any labor activist concerned with organizing the cutting edge of worldwide production: global electronics."
Labor Studies Journal

Table of Contents

Foreword: Technology Happens – Jim Hightower
1. The Quest for Sustainability and Justice in a High-Tech World – Ted Smith, David A. Sonnenfeld, and David N. Pellow

Part I. Global Electronics
Section Introduction – David A. Sonnenfeld
2. The Changing Map of Global Electronics: Networks of Mass Production in the New Economy – Boy Lüthje
3. Occupational Health in the Semiconductor Industry – Joseph LaDou
4. Double Jeopardy: Gender and Migration in Electronics Manufacturing – Anibel Ferus-Comelo
5. "Made in China": Electronics Workers in the World's Fastest Growing Economy – Apo Leong and Sanjiv Pandita
6. Corporate Social Responsibility in Thailand's Electronics Industry – Tira Foran and David A. Sonnenfeld
7. Electronics Workers in India – Sanjiv Pandita
8. Out of the Shadows and into the Gloom? Worker and Community Health in and around Central and Eastern Europe's Semiconductor Plants – Andrew Watterson

Part II. Environmental Justice And Labor Rights
Section Introduction – Andrew Watterson and Shenglin Chang
9. From Grassroots to Global: The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition's Milestones in Building a Movement for Corporate Accountability and Sustainability in the High-Tech Industry – Leslie A. Byster and Ted Smith
10. The Struggle for Occupational Health in Silicon Valley: A Conversation with Amanda Hawes – Amanda Hawes with David N. Pellow
11. Immigrant Workers in Two Eras: Struggles and Successes in Silicon Valley – David N. Pellow and Glenna Matthews
12. Worker Health at National Semiconductor, Greenock (Scotland): Freedom to Kill? – James McCourt
13. Community-Based Organizing for Labor Rights, Health, and the Environment: Television Manufacturing on the Mexico-U.S. Border – Connie García and Amelia Simpson
14. Labor Rights and Occupational Health in Jalisco's Electronics Industry (Mexico) – Raquel E. Partida Rocha
15. Breaking the Silicon Silence: Voicing Health and Environmental Impacts within Taiwan's Hsinchu Science Park – Shenglin Chang, Hua-Mei Chiu, and Wen-Ling Tu
16. Human Lives Valued Less Than Dirt: Former RCA Workers Contaminated by Pollution Fighting Worldwide for Justice (Taiwan) – Yu-Ling Ku
17. Unionizing Electronics: The Need for New Strategies – Robert Steiert

Part III. Electronic Waste and Extended Producer Responsibility
Section Introduction – Leslie A. Byster and Wen-Ling Tu
18. The Electronics Production Life Cycle. From Toxics to Sustainability: Getting Off the Toxic Treadmill – Leslie A. Byster and Ted Smith
19. High-Tech Pollution in Japan: Growing Problems, Alternative Solutions – Fumikazu Yoshida
20. High-Tech's Dirty Little Secret: The Economics and Ethics of the Electronic Waste Trade – Jim Puckett
21. Hi-Tech Heaps, Forsaken Lives: E-Waste in Delhi – Ravi Agarwal and Kishore Wankhade
22. Importing Extended Producer Responsibility for Electronic Equipment into the United States – Chad Raphael and Ted Smith
23. International Environmental Agreements and the Information Technology Industry – Ken Geiser and Joel Tickner
24. Design Change in Electrical and Electronic Equipment: Impacts of the Extended Producer Responsibility Legislation in Sweden and Japan – Naoko Tojo
25. The Dell Campaign – David Wood and Robin Schneider
Appendix A. Principles of Environmental Justice
Appendix B. The Silicon Principles of Socially and Environmentally Responsible Electronics Manufacturing
Appendix C. Sample Shareholder Resolutions
Appendix D. Computer TakeBack Campaign Statement of Principles
Appendix E. Electronics Recycler's Pledge of True Stewardship
Acronyms Used

About the Author(s)

Ted Smith is founder and Senior Strategist, Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, and is co-founder and Coordinator of the International Campaign for Responsible Technology.

David Sonnenfeld is an Associate Professor in the Department of Community and Rural Sociology at Washington State University. He is a Research Associate with the Environmental Policy Group at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, and co-editor of Ecological Modernisation Around the World: Perspectives and Critical Debates

David Naguib Pellow is Associate Professor in the Ethnic Studies Department, University of California at San Diego. He is the author of Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago, and co-author of The Silicon Valley of Dreams: Environmental Injustice, Immigrant Workers and the High-Tech Global Economy.