Fighting the Monster

City supports boycott of company that outsourced 120 jobs
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news@sfbg.com

On Valentine's Day, Yi Jun Huang, a smiling 65-year-old Chinese immigrant, walked into the Apple store near Union Square and handed the manager a large chocolate heart and a pink valentine as about 40 laid-off Monster Cable workers and their supporters rallied outside. It was one of several appeals to electronics stores to honor a boycott and stop carrying Monster products.

Huang had worked in a Monster Cable factory producing high-end audio cables for 16 years and was fired last October with more than 120 mostly Chinese immigrant workers when the company decided to outsource their jobs.

"The production manager openly told us that production was moving to Mexico," Huang said.

Now, despite a boycott launched by the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), a slew of protests by the workers, and a resolution passed Feb. 13 by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors urging the company to address worker concerns, Monster Cable still refuses to budge.

"A multibillion-dollar company should not springboard off their workers for the sake of profit and then kick them to the curb," said Shirley Lorence, an organizer with Rise Up, a caucus within the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. "That's wrong."

The recently laid-off workers have an average tenure of eight years, with many having around 15 to 20 years, according to the CPA. Many workers are in their 40s and 50s. With these layoffs, Monster Cable broke from its previous policy of providing four weeks' severance pay plus one week for every year of service, and it did not offer job placement, retraining, or community support for any of the workers.

The Board of Supervisors resolution asks Monster Cable, which spent $6 million buying the naming rights to the city-owned Candlestick Park, to give $2 million for a Worker and Community Transition Fund and its workers a more generous severance package.

"The problem of outsourcing is something we have to make a statement on," said Sup. Jake McGoldrick, who sponsored the resolution, which passed 8–3, with Sups. Michela Alioto-Pier, Sean Elsbernd, and Ed Jew in opposition.

Elsbernd took issue with asking a company to provide a more generous severance package than what the city itself offers. Jew thought the city was being too hard on a native company in a competitive field.

Leon Chow, chair of the CPA, was very disappointed that Jew, being the only Chinese American on the board, opposed the measure. He and others said Monster appears to be financially healthy and the outsourcing was based simply on greed.

"We saw no evidence that times are tough," Huang said. "We know their sales are up to a billion dollars annually. We're the ones who work there, and there have been no signs that things are slowing down."

But CEO, or "Head Monster" as he calls himself, Noel Lee wrote in a Feb. 9 letter to the board, "We have to yield to the competitive nature of the marketplace where global sourcing is the norm." *

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