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A Dollar A Day: Made in China
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A Dollar A Day: Made in China
The jobs that ex-miners in Minnesota see disappearing to China stand for new opportunities for the young Li Jieli to improve her and her family's living condition. Three people from very different worlds and expectations show how they struggle to maintain their security in a shifting and uncertain global economy.
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Segment 1

TITLE
EMF Films and Global Visions & Associates present
TITLE
A Dollar A Day
TITLE
Wuijang Economical Development Zone, Jiangshu province, China
GIRLS
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful girl. Her name was Xiao Wei. She was born with eyes so soft. She made my heart race. Xiao Wei, you know I love you. I want to fly away with you.
GIRL
Then it starts:
LI JIELI
When I feel bad, I come and sit on the roof. Work brings a lot of pressure and sometimes I feel homesick.
VOICEOVER
Every day in modern China, thousands of young women are willing to leave home and family behind to take jobs in faraway factories in the hope of escaping poverty.
LI JIELI
This queue makes me think of how bad I felt when I arrived. When I see these girls at the gate it brings back bad memories. I spent 24 hours on the train to get here. I didn't have a seat, so I had to stand up the whole journey. Because of travel sickness I vomited all the time.
TITLE
Made in China
TITLE
A film by Eline Flipse
MAN
As an employment officer, I send hundreds of workers to this factory every year. We come from a remote mountainous area. There aren't many jobs available. That's why we send many workers away. Of course they make much more money here than they do at home. With their savings they can invest in a house back home.
WOMAN
Have your diploma, ID card, and a pen ready. You'll need them soon. Put down your luggage. Welcome to Delta Zhongda. This is the admittance procedure although I know you've all had a long and tiring trip.
LI JIELI
My parents sent me here because they didn't have the money to buy a new house. I really hated my parents when I had to leave home. In fact, it was not necessary for me to leave. I was not the best pupil at school, but I could have gone to university. But according to my parents they couldn't afford university for me. Every month, as soon as I get my salary, I send money home. My grandma was disappointed that I didn't go to university. She said: "If possible you should have further education. Or you'll always be a frog at the bottom of a well who can only see a small part of the sky."
HERO TSAI [Manager Delta, Zhong Da facilities]
Our company makes different kinds of electrical appliances. It is mostly about components that need to be assembled. That's why we prefer working with girls. They are much more precise and they are also easier to manage than boys. This factory employs 10,000 people. The average annual salary of our workers is about 15,000 yuan [RMB] per year or USD$150 per month. Most of our products are sold in the US and Europe and the rest in Asia. We supply to the five biggest IT companies in the world: Dell, HP, IBM in America, and in Japan to Sony, Sharp, Canon.
TITLE
Iron Range, Minnesota, USA
VOICEOVER
The changes in the global marketplace that have affected jobs in China are rippling throughout the world in both anticipated and unexpected ways.
WAYNE PETERSON
I'm a label nut. I bet I can't find one here that's made in America. Well, I'm glad someone's working in manufacturing. Well, they're trying to get, they're trying to label McDonald's as a manufacturing outfit because they assemble hamburgers. Then they can change the statistics to show: "Look at all the manufacturing jobs!" Ain't that something? It was proposed, in Congress. Now that's getting desperate to try to fudge statistics. Bangladesh: sounds like a disease. Those are kinda nice. Nope, made in China. I don't think I'll get a pair of shorts today. I'd say it started years ago, with electronics. I think to keep the Chinese out of the Korean War, we allowed them to start manufacturing a lot of electronic goods. VCRs, televisions, things like that. Nixon did that to keep them out of the war. Same thing with Vietnam, it continued. And then it got to be a good idea. Cheap labor, and no environmental concerns and costs, and no pensions, no taxes. Huge profits. Well, that's made in Pakistan. Even a Minnesota Vikings shirt. Made in China, but there aren't any made here, so I don't have a choice.
DANA BURNS [Manager, United Taconite mines]
People here refer to this as the Iron Range. It really got a start back in the mid-1800s, with the discovery of iron ore, which ... this area then just prospered greatly. And a lot of the people that came to work in the mines were immigrants, and came from countries like Finland and Sweden and so on. You know, it's ... they have a very proud history here. The steel companies came into financial trouble with high imports. They were exiting the mines; I think there were over 30-some companies that went bankrupt.
DAVID OLSON
This is my estate. Well, what do you think of it? It's the little green house on the west end of Aurora. This is my windmill, the whole works. That's the only way I go fishing. You go ... whenever that's turned, then I go fishing. Snowmobile season is just over with. This is a 550 Bearcat. And this is my boat, this is the one I take on Lake Superior. This is my pride and joy. I had a good income, yes. In a year, boy, I'd have to ask Sally, I'm not really sure. Oh, it was 63, I suppose, somewhere in there. And I was working a lot of overtime, so that added into that, so that towards the end, it was hard to judge what ... Cause I could make so much at one time and so little at another. Good income, yeah. Until they decided to do what they did to us. Mining companies, they said they weren't making a profit, and decided to get out of the area. They were getting ore from China, getting it from everyplace else, and cheap. Why dig it here if they can go somewhere else and get it cheaper? So that's what happened to us.
LI JIELI
I am in charge of 105 persons. Talking about pressure: You have to reach the target figures. Not only me, but the whole team I'm responsible for. If we don't make the target, we don't get paid for that day, so that's a heavy kind of pressure.
VOICEOVER
The demands at this factory are hard for young people to handle. But, unlike most sweatshops around the world, employees here are paid regularly and treated decently.
SIGN
This production line performed best this month
LI JIELI
The rule here is that we have to reach a certain quota each month. Once, we reached the highest possible quota. Every month, they determine which production line performed best. Then we get a bonus of 200 yuan or 25 dollars to play with. That amount is for the whole team and we must share it. It allows us to buy some extra fruit and sweets.
HERO TSAI
The female workers are, first of all, quite young. They are between 16 and 25 years old. Leaving home is more difficult for them than for the men. That's why we pay more attention to human management, 24 hours a day. About 85 percent of our workers come from the interior. The living conditions here are a great deal better than at home.
LI JIELI
What time are you off? Six o'clock?
HERO TSAI
We sometimes say jokingly that most of the workers arrived thin and dirty but that they flourished after they've worked here for a few years.
VOICEOVER
Whether or not the girls actually flourish is a question. They do not have protections afforded by trade unions, but they are at least housed and fed and able to develop a new community of friends.
ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
Your factory ID, please. Happy birthday!
GIRL
Thank you.
LI JIELI
We're going to eat the cake. Happy birthday to you!
VOICEOVER
Even a few sweets make the adjustment to factory life a little less difficult for these young workers.
LI JIELI
Look at this!
GIRL
It's nice.
LI JIELI
Don't ruin it!
GIRL
Don't do that.

Segment 2

WAYNE PETERSON
There's RE/MAX, house for sale. God, there's two of them up here. Lot of people have not found anything and given up. You can tell that one now hasn't gotten any attention for a long time. That looks abandoned. Lot of friends had to leave their friends and family, and no kids in the streets anymore. School's closed down, and you can see the grass isn't even mowed at the school anymore; this used to all be mowed nice. Kids playing, there used to be a playground there. Used to be full of kids, when families could afford to live here, and there were jobs. That used to be a pool. Destitution, job loss. Poverty. To live from check to check. To leave an area where you grew up. Having your credit destroyed because you can't pay your bills. Questioning if you get sick, whether or not you can pay, because you don't have health insurance, cause that was taken away and it's too expensive to buy on your own.
SIGN
United Taconite. Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. Laiwu Steel Group Ltd. United Steel Workers of America. Mine Operations
DANA BURNS
There was a company, Laiwu Steel, Chinese steel company, that was looking for raw materials, iron ore. China has been very hungry for all types of commodities, iron ore and steel. We were actually to help Laiwu take its ore from this mine, and trade it with a Canadian firm, and they would then take the Canadian pellets to China. There's concern that a lot of, you know, products that are purchased in retail stores and so on are being imported from China. But what we have here was ... the story that we have here in, at United Taconite, is kind of a reverse. We were able to come back, bring this mine back up and actually export product to China. So it's ... our situation is somewhat unique, compared to what others are experiencing with the growth of China.
VOICEOVER
This unique turn regarding exports to developing countries might not be unique for long. However, as the global marketplace expands and levels, and access to jobs becomes more competitive, the question is, how will workers find a fair deal? Who will own the responsibility for establishing fair wages and setting employment standards?
BILL MATOS [Blaster, United Taconite]
This is a blasting cap in here. And it'll fire on to here, and set this line off, and set the hole off. This is my job. It's called "blaster." My father worked for the mining company too, but he wasn't a blaster. My grandfather was a blaster. He worked with explosives at that time. As far as I know he was working on a piece of explosives, like a piece of dynamite or something and it went off. Well, yeah, yeah. Killed him.
VOICE
Gate 15, all units in the field. We are now ready for the main shot. Leaving the mike open between each count in case someone has to break in with an emergency. Three, two, one. Clear.
BILL MATOS
When Evtac filed bankruptcy, they froze my pension at 29 years, 10 months. I could've retired at 30 years. The mine was not exhausted, I mean we probably have one of the best ore bodies up here. And it could probably run for another 30 years. They wouldn't give us any orders for steel, so they just choked us off, choked us off. And, in the end, you're forced ... I think it was a planned closure, myself. And they got away with it. And, it's legal.
DANA BURNS
Because of the bankruptcy of the prior owner here, these people lost a lot of their pensions and healthcare and benefits. So that's the social cost that comes with bankruptcy.
BILL MATOS
They could see that 2004, 2005, 2006, there'd be a great amount of people eligible for retirement, so they figured a way to cut their losses and cut their legacy costs. Now, we're still making, still mining at United Taconite, and we're still supplying Stelco Steel in Ontario with pellets. They're still a customer. So instead of being the owner, they divested themselves of all their legacy costs, and became a customer.
DANA BURNS
It all starts fresh, yeah. We did not ... you don't ... we did not buy the company and those liabilities. Those liabilities were the prior owners', who failed here. We've put together a model, we think that works, and we start fresh.
BILL MATOS
So now, when I got rehired at United Taconite, I started building a new pension. From zero.
WAYNE PETERSON
USD$50,000 a year is easy to make in the mines, pushing a broom. If you have a skill or a trade, like a millwright, which I was, you don't need all the overtime to make $50,000 a year. And up here, you know, you can buy a decent home, you can buy a couple cars for the family, and a bunch of toys. Well, I didn't do that right away, because I didn't think it was gonna last.
DAVID OLSON
You know, at one time there was 3,000 guys out there. Can you imagine, when I first started out there, there was 3,000? And at the end, there was maybe, there was 63 of us left? When I left, I had 34 years out there -- 34 years of my life to end up with nothing.
LI JIELI
Do not spit on the ground. Do not paste on the wall. Drunkenness will be punished with 50 yuan. Anyone who makes trouble will get fired. Gambling is prohibited on penalty of dismissal. Do not take strangers to the dormitory on penalty of dismissal. All occupants should be in by 22:00. First offence is a warning, then dismissal.
HERO TSAI
Is everything arranged for your leave?
LI JIELI
Yes, I will stay away for 20 days. I am going to visit my family.
HERO TSAI
Who is going to replace you?
LI JIELI
My deputy line chef will replace me.
HERO TSAI
Okay that's fine. Now carry on with your work.
SIGN
Payphone Market
LI JIELI
Hello grandma, it's me. Where is Mum? Outside? Can you get her? I was planning to come back on the 13th, but I've postponed it by two days. I miss you so much. I feel so homesick. I want to go home.
WOMAN [Li Jieli's friend]
It's here, isn't it?
LI JIELI
Do you have a smaller one like this? Yes, a small one.
SALES CLERK
This is the cheapest at 35 yuan.
LI JIELI
30 yuan.
SALES CLERK
30 yuan? I wouldn't make any money.
LI JIELI
30 yuan is more than enough!
SALES CLERK
Okay for 35 yuan?
LI JIELI
30, no more!
SALES CLERK
The goods we sell are all good quality!
LI JIELI
I know, I know, 30 yuan.
WAYNE PETERSON
I looked around after the mines shut down. I thought, well, you know, a lot of people are gonna have to move. And I'm not gonna be one of them. Hey, I'm going to work. We're gonna go eat at five or so tonight, huh?
WAYNE'S DAUGHTER
Okay.
WAYNE PETERSON
Alright, see you later then.
WAYNE'S WIFE
Yep, okay.
WAYNE'S DAUGHTER
Bye.
WAYNE PETERSON
Want to eat at five tonight?
WAYNE'S WIFE
Yeah.
WAYNE PETERSON
Somewhere? Aurora?
WAYNE'S WIFE
Yeah, alright. Have a nice day. Bye-bye.
WAYNE PETERSON
So I figure, well how am I gonna stay here? Some friends of mine got into nursing. Pays even more than what we made in the mines. It's secure. Howdy! It's long-term, because people are always gonna get hurt and sick and older. And, you know, it'll never go away. Until we start shipping people, maybe to Canada or something, for healthcare. Howdy! Hi there Bill.
BILL
How do you do?
WAYNE PETERSON
How's it going today?
BILL
I hope I feel better after you get done with me.
WAYNE PETERSON
Okay. Well, this is just a matter of checking your lung sounds a little bit here.
BILL
Okay.
WAYNE PETERSON
You wanna breathe in for me, deep? Okay. Okay, and now I'm gonna listen to your heart, a little bit.
BILL
If it's there.
WAYNE PETERSON
I found it! Now I'll check your pulse. What'd you used to do for a living?
BILL
I slaved away at Eerie Mining Company.
WAYNE PETERSON
Really?
BILL
Really.
WAYNE PETERSON
I worked out there, and I got involved in the shutdown. And now I work as a nurse. This is a little more fun, I get to talk to people.
BILL
And I'm just learning about retiring.
WAYNE PETERSON
Well, someday I hope I can. I hope I have a pension. I'm supposed to have a pension, when I'm 65, but we'll see about that. They don't even know if Social Security will be there. Hi!
PATIENT
Hi.
WAYNE PETERSON
How are you today?
PATIENT
Fine.
WAYNE PETERSON
Good. I'm used to barking orders, or hollering back, "The damn machine broke down, get the mechanics." Or, you know, I'm not used to being subtle, quiet -- good afternoon -- soft. But, yeah, after two years of working as an LPN [licensed practical nurse], I've kinda toned down and mellowed out a little bit.

Segment 3

TRAIN CONDUCTOR
Have your tickets ready. Stay in the queue. You need to show your ticket. Get in line. You there, don't jump the queue. Quicker. Stay in line! Put it up there neatly. This won't do.
LI JIELI
I've been on the train for over 20 hours, since yesterday afternoon. Train fares are expensive. I always take third class. I don't go back home often. I have only been back once, in the last three years.
VOICEOVER
Like many young people in her situation, Li has suffered from the pains of transition and homesickness. But on this rare visit home she will have to confront other questions. How will she see life at home now that she's experienced independence? Will she be so relieved to be home that she won't want to go back to the factory? Or will she decide to return?
LI JIELI
I haven't seen my brother in three or four years. He is grown up, but he doesn't have a house of his own. With us, sons mean more to the parents than girls. My mother prefers my brother to me, which hurts. You could say, I work for my brother.
MAN
Can you take this for us? Thanks.
TITLE
Changzhuangcun, Shaanxisheng province
LI JIELI
Grandma!
GRANDMA
What is the matter? Darling ... That's a long time ago.
NEIGHBORS
Come back to the old nest?
LI JIELI
Mum. Auntie.
MOTHER
Easy, take it easy. Calm down. It's alright. So good to see you.
LI JIELI
Dad.
GRANDMOTHER
Come in.
MOTHER
Go and wash your hands.
LI JIELI
Where's Grandma? And there's your uncle.
DAVID OLSON
Once I retired, we were gonna go, just travel. That was the thing we were gonna do, we were gonna travel. Well, now we stay home. And we go, you know, I mean, we go fishing, and that's about it, so.
SIGN
Gone Fishin'
SIGN
Proud to be an American
SIGN
No Hunting Without Permission
DAVID OLSON
I had 34 years, I was going for 35. Thirty-five would've gave me just about USD$2,400 a month. I could've lived. Plus the insurance, the insurance was the big thing. Your drugs, your insurance, I could go to, you know, we could've traveled, Sally and I could've traveled. What's the Travel Channel? That's 168?
SALLY [David's wife]
I have no idea.
DAVID OLSON
We'll try that. One-six-eight. We live comfortably enough. Well, we didn't pay anything before, in the mines.
SALLY
Yeah.
DAVID OLSON
That was ...
SALLY
When he was working, our insurance was free.
DAVID OLSON
Yeah. She can explain that a lot better than I can.
SALLY
And we had a small deductible and we paid a co-pay on our prescriptions, you know. Now we pay hundreds of dollars a month, we have a USD$2,000 deductible a year, so we have to pay that first. And that's both of us, so that's USD$4,000: USD$2,000 apiece.
DAVID OLSON
They can't really hurt me anymore. So, I'm gonna be on Social Security sooner or later here, in a couple of more years. Hopefully, Bush don't take that away from me, let's hope. And then, now, if something would happen to me, she only gets half my pension.
SALLY
I don't get half your pension.
DAVID OLSON
Well, not even half.
SALLY
With this government takeover thing now, now I have no idea what I would get, but I'm sure it's nothing.
LI JIELI
My shoes are covered in dust.
FATHER
It doesn't matter.
LI JIELI
Should I leave two of them?
FATHER
If you don't, they don't grow.
LI JIELI
Shall I leave the largest?
FATHER
Makes no difference.
LI JIELI
Leave the one in the middle?
FATHER
It's up to you.
LI JIELI
Can I leave more?
FATHER
Yes, but then they don't grow well.
LI JIELI
Did you miss me, Dad?
FATHER
I certainly missed you.
LI JIELI
Really? I always call you, but you hardly ever call me.
FATHER
But I did call you.
LI JIELI
Only once.
FATHER
Our harvest is more than we can eat ourselves. We have enough to eat.
LI JIELI
Food is not really the problem. But you can't earn any money. People have hardly any money here.
FATHER
That's why Jieli left two years ago to work in the city. Maybe she was too young but we had no choice. I did not want her to leave home. She was so young, only 17, when she left. And her health was not so good. But now she is a lot better. Now she looks healthy and strong.

Segment 4

DAVID OLSON
Can you imagine the water? I used to drive down there. These are Minnesota quartz. That's our beauties, that ... I got them all over the yard. There's still iron here, but it's in finer ... someday the technology will come to where they can take the rest of it right out of here. The technology will take the rest of this. And they'll use all this over again. You know, that's why these dumps are made, where they are made. Because they can always come in here and just take it and recrush them and ... So there's a ... there's a potential. It wouldn't take them long to pump that out with the pumps they have today. They could pump that, nothing to it.
VOICEOVER
David still has faith in a system that will invent new technologies which he believes will bring prosperity back to his community. But Wayne's faith in the system has been shaken. He feels that answers lie in the bigger question of corporate responsibility.
WAYNE PETERSON
I used to read The Wall Street Journal and Barron's Magazine, and year after year, since the '80s, I've seen companies sell such and such, moving here, moving there, and they're already exploiting the people wherever they are. And it's irresponsible. I believe that they're being exploited. Most of the time, they're not gonna have any pensions, they're not getting anything but maybe survival for the time being. out of these wealthy, international companies that could very well afford to pay them more than I'm sure they're getting paid. Short-term, Wall Street mentality. We gotta go up 30 percent a year, so we can hide 15 percent of it, buy a bunch of companies, and take the other 15 percent and show the stock holders, "Look, we grew by 15 percent." So we can hang on to them, and raise the value of the stock, and ah! Drives me nuts. But it's ... it happens.
FATHER
This is the new home we are building.
BROTHER
This will be my bedroom. We will put the bed there, the TV and the sofa over there. Here we can put another closet.
LI JIELI
When I was little we all slept in the same bed.
FATHER
This room is going to be Jieli 's room.
FATHER
Yes, this is mine.
FATHER
This is for Jieli. Jieli already knows where she'll put her things.
LI JIELI
Sons will stay at home and support their parents. Girls will live with their in-laws and that's why they are less valuable to the parents.
BROTHER
I wouldn't mind moving to Xian. My parents could live with me there.
MOTHER
I hardly ever go to the city. I don't really like it. It's the countryside for me.
BROTHER
The city is more interesting to live in. The countryside is a boring place to be. In town there's lots to do. You can go shopping or to the park, the entertainment center or the zoo. The countryside is boring. There's nothing to do. So boring.
MOTHER
What's the food in the factory like?
LI JIELI
Much better than here. You made it much too salty.
MOTHER
Seriously? I bet it's no good over there. Do you eat enough vegetables?
LI JIELI
It isn't really much better. It's cooked in huge quantities. Have some yourself. Too salty. Life there isn't so different from the life here. Here you're at home all day. There it's factory, dormitory, and canteen.
DAVID OLSON
I believe in the ... there's a future up here yet. It's just in a slack time right now.
PETE LICARI [Barber]
What're you doing now?
DAVID OLSON
I found a job, I work at Iron Gate down here, at the retirement, it's a retirement home for elderly people. And I work for minimum wage, so ... But they're nice people.
PETE LICARI
Well, the way these people built this area around here, and then all of a sudden they take everything out of here because they can get cheap labor. As far as bringing most people up, and bringing up the standards for all these Third World countries and all this, I believe in that. But you've gotta pay them the same kind of money, give them a decent living. You see, these people up here, in the early days were exploited, just like they're exploiting the Third World countries now. They get the labor for next to nothing and they make millions of dollars. Well, don't misunderstand this, I'm not a communist, I'm not a socialist. Might sound like it, but I'm not. It's just that this thing has to even out. There's not a difference, it's no different here than it is any other place. But that's the way these people are, and they just should be that way. But if you don't have it, you're not going to have progress. It'll come back, because it usually does. When they find they can't make it work someplace else, they'll take them back here.
LI JIELI
I didn't get on with my brother because he was so useless. He caused my parents a lot of headaches.
BROTHER
I have been building the house for over two months, all by myself. It's a very big house. I'm working like a donkey. And she hasn't done a thing since she came back.
INTERVIEWER
Is that right?
LI JIELI
It is. My mother says that he has been a great help to my father. If he hadn't come back, my father wouldn't have managed. He's behaving like a perfect son. Really. I think I will stay in this factory for another two years. By then I hope I'll have saved enough money to open a small restaurant or a shop. I'm not going to work in a factory for the rest of my life.
VOICEOVER
Li now sees a future and has a plan. Although determined not to spend more time than necessary in the factory, she can see the possibilities of independence that working there might bring. So can her cousin.
MEDIATOR
Do you remember me?
LI JIELI
Of course.
MEDIATOR
Have a seat, both of you. Weren't you here in 2002?
LI JIELI
Yes, I left in 2002.
MEDIATOR
Still working at Zhongda?
LI JIELI
Yes, still there.
MEDIATOR
Which factory are you in?
LI JIELI
Number one.
MEDIATOR
Do you like it?
LI JIELI
It's all right. My cousin would like to work there, too. Do you still mediate for them?
MEDIATOR
Yes, we're going there on Saturday. Also to Zhongda.
LI JIELI
What would be the costs if she wanted to come with me?
MEDIATOR
The cost of our mediation is 700 yuan [RMB], same as before. The train is now faster and costs more but we are the only agency that hasn't put the price up.
LI JIELI
Is it only this form?
MEDIATOR
Yes, that's all you fill in. Did she graduate from middle school?
LI JIELI
Yes, she has a diploma. She doesn't want to go to university.
MEDIATOR
When did she graduate?
LI JIELI
Just this year.
MEDIATOR
In what year were you born?
COUSIN
1989.
MEDIATOR
Which month?
COUSIN
February.
LI JIELI
That's me!
MEDIATOR
You only see that now? And you're right in the middle. You looked very young then. You really grew up in that time.
VOICE [Singing]
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful girl. Her name was Xiao Wei.
TITLE
[end credits]