Radio Corporation of America, Taiwan

RCA Taiwan was found to have dumped toxic waste at its Taoyuan factory polluting soil and underground water, leading to alarmingly high rates of cancer among its workers, among them many women.


RCA came to Taiwan in 1969 to produce electronic parts for televisions, employing more than 30,000 people at its peak production. Most of them on the production line were women from poor families.

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Basic Data
NameRadio Corporation of America, Taiwan
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Manufacturing activities
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific CommoditiesManufactured Products
Project Details and Actors
Project Details200 million electronic parts for televisions at peak production
Project Area (in hectares)7
Level of Investment (in USD)50,000,000
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Populationmore than 1,300
Start Date01/06/1994
Company Names or State EnterprisesRadio Corporation of America (RCA) from United States of America
General Electric US (GE) from United States of America
Thomson Consumer Electronics from France
Relevant government actorsThe Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersTaiwan’s Legal Aid Foundation

USA Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingIndustrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Genetic contamination, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents
Potential: Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
New legislation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
The RCA horrible case has brought to light many loopholes in the Taiwanese laws and regulations.
“Before the RCA incident, Taiwan lacked effective laws and environmental regulations ,” says Chou, the lawyer representing the RCA Taiwan former workers. At that time, the Taiwanese government was not adequately prepared to deal with matters involving environmental protection and occupational hazards. It was not until 2000 that Taiwan enacted the Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Act and established the “polluter pays principle” to deter violators. The case also led to the revision of the labor insurance regulation to make breast removal eligible for disability compensation, a significant advance on the rights of Taiwanese female workers.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.On April 17 2015, the Taipei District Court rendered a verdict in favor of former assembly line workers visiting the now-defunct electronics company, Radio Corporation of America. Yet, it is possible that the compensation would be unattainable.

When the team of Taiwanese attorneys applied to the courts to provisionally seize RCA's assets for investigation, they found out RCA had already transferred its assets out of Taiwan roughly around the same time when it was held accountable for the cleanup between 1996 and 1997.

It may be difficult for the Taiwanese workers to file a lawsuit in the United States because the allegations stem from abroad. Court rulings in 2017 have given larger compensations. But there is a feeling that this is too little and too late.
Sources and Materials

Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Act (Mandarin)
[click to view]


Voices That Refuse to Be Forgotten

an oral history of the event created by former RCA workers in Taiwan in 2013.
[click to view]

Capital Moves: RCA's Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor (with a New Epilogue) Paperback – April 1, 2001

Amazon description: Globalization is the lead story of the new century, but its roots reach back nearly one hundred years, to major corporations’ quest for stable, inexpensive, and pliant sources of labor. Before the largest companies moved beyond national boundaries, they crossed state lines, abandoning the industrial centers of the Eastern Seaboard for impoverished rural communities in the Midwest and South. In their wake they left the decaying urban landscapes and unemployment rates that became hallmarks of late
[click to view]

Challenging the Chip

Amazon description: "Challenging the Chip" is the first comprehensive examination of the impacts of electronics manufacturing on workers and local environments around the world. The essays in this volume contribute to a collaborative international discourse of citizens, workers, health professionals, academics, labour leaders, environmental activists, and others with the common goal of developing alternative visions for the regulation and sustainable development of manufacturing, assembly/disassembly, and waste disposal in the global electronics industry. Contributors from Asia, North America, Europe, and Latin America provide multidimensional perspectives on the science and the politics of environmental and social justice, documenting the efforts of community and labour
[click to view]

31 Oct. 2017. Taiwan High Court rules that electronics workers should receive US$23.7 million in compensation for health damages.
[click to view]


RCA Taiwan Ex-Workers Win Pollution Lawsuit (ENS)

Copublished with Taiwan Environmental Information Association
[click to view]

Wiki RCA Environmental record
[click to view]

[click to view]

Media Links

Documentary: Behind the RCA miracle (Mandarin)
[click to view]

Other Documents

RCA Taiwan Factory Entrance A youtube screenshot of the RCA documentary created by Taiwan Public Television Service
[click to view]

Female RCA Workers A youtube screenshot of the RCA documentary created by Taiwan Public Television Service
[click to view]

Factory Ventilation A youtube screenshot of the RCA documentary created by Taiwan Public Television Service
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorTaiwan Environmental Information Association
Last update16/10/2018