New T rail cars built on backs of children

Mica in vehicles mined in Madagascar by child laborers

AS CO-CHAIR of the MBTA Caucus, I would like to share and expand on concerns readers may not be fully aware of involving CRRC, the Chinese state-owned enterprise that is manufacturing new rail cars for use by the T.

CRRC claims to operate in accord with the highest standards for manufacturing and Buy America rules, and is portrayed as representing American values and interests rather than those of the People’s Republic of China. However, and as recently reported by NBC News: “Rail systems in 3 US cities press Chinese train maker after NBC News report on child labor.”

NBC News “reviewed hundreds of shipping records and traveled more than 400 miles through Madagascar’s remote southern region to document the flow of mica mined by children.” They found that more than 90 percent of the mica that is mined using Madagascar child labor ends up in China. From there, it passes through a convoluted supply chain and it endsw up being used in the CRRC transit railcars. These are the same cars that CRRC is manufacturing in China and shipping here for use by the MBTA.

News stories on the practice have not held back on the extremely concerning details: “Kids have developed back and breathing problems from descending into darkened pits without safety gear to collect mineral shards for pennies an hour. Others work at mica processing centers where they spend hours a day banging on mica sheets with socket-wrench-like tools.”

The news is alarming, but in the context of the Chinese Uighur detention camps and China’s treatment of Hong Kong protesters, it is not surprising.

What is surprising is the lack of dialogue concerning these practices. While our system needs all of the new equipment we can get, we should be acutely aware of the labor practices employed by the suppliers, and actively reject contributing to any types of human rights abuses.

The MBTA said in a statement to NBC10 in Boston last month that the general manager “directed his staff to look into whether the CRRC contract will allow them to exercise any level of control’ on where the company gets its ‘supplies and materials.’”

Meet the Author

Sean Garballey

State representative from Arlington, Massachusetts House of Representatives
The MBTA should not need a staff report to understand what latitude it has to require that its vendors and suppliers do not use exploitative child labor practices. The time has come for the public to know and fully understand the hidden and unnecessary costs involved in these new cars, and we must unilaterally call for an immediate end to these exploitative practices. The Commonwealth needs state of the art equipment to meet our transportation demands, that much is abundantly clear, but it must be absolutely guaranteed that no one is harmed in the process.

Sean Garballey is the state representative from Arlington.