In July, Mother Jones broke the story that Mitt Romney, when he was running Bain Capital, had invested in Global-Tech Appliances, a Chinese manufacturing company that profited from US outsourcing. This revelation came as the Romney campaign tried to portray the candidate as a private-sector jobs creator and the Obama team tried to portray Romney as a vulture capitalist who put profits ahead of people and never cared about creating jobs while at Bain.
Now, Global-Tech is again part of the campaign story. The Obama campaign is out with a new ad, seen above, challenging Romney’s tough-on-China stance that zeroes in on his Global-Tech investment. Also, a labor rights group has published a report hitting Romney for investing in Global-Tech and detailing the long hours, low wages, and poor working conditions at Global-Tech’s Chinese factory. The report, issued by the Pittsburgh-based Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights, calls Global-Tech a “brutal sweatshop.” (In the “47 percent” secret fundraiser video revealed by Mother Jones, Romney appears to mention Global-Tech—or a Chinese factory like it. “When I was back in my private sector days, we went to China to buy a factory there,” Romney said. “It employed about 20,000 people. And they were almost all young women between the ages of about 18 and 22 or 23. They were saving for potentially becoming married, and they work at these huge factories.”)
First, the Obama ad. It claims that Romney and Bain believed Global-Tech was a good investment despite “knowing that the firm promoted its practice of exploiting low-wage labor to its investors.” The ad ends with the message: “Mitt Romney, tough on China? Since when?” The Obama campaign says the ad will air in New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada—all battleground states.
The Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights highlights the dismal working conditions at Global Tech while asking what, if anything, Romney or Bain did to improve those conditions. “If Mr. Romney had spoken up, conditions at Global-Tech might be far better today,” the report contends. “Sadly, in 2012 Global-Tech remains a brutal sweatshop where workers are paid starvation wages of $1.00 an hour and have no rights whatsoever.”
The Global-Tech revelation wasn’t the only Romney investment story first reported by Mother Jones. In July, David Corn also revealed how Romney and Bain invested in firms that pioneered high-tech, or “stealth,” outsourcing. Will these deals be in the next Obama ad?