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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
Name of conflict:Radio Corporation of America, Taiwan
Location of conflict:Taoyuan
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 commodities:Manufactured Products
Project Details and Actors
Project details

200 million electronic parts for televisions at peak production

Project area:7
Level of Investment for the conflictive project50,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:more than 1,300
Start of the conflict:01/06/1994
Company names or state enterprises:Radio 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 actors:The Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Taiwan’s Legal Aid Foundation
USA Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Community-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-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain: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 & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

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

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Voices That Refuse to Be Forgotten

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

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]

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]

Wiki RCA Environmental record
[click to view]

RCA Taiwan Ex-Workers Win Pollution Lawsuit (ENS)

Copublished with Taiwan Environmental Information Association
[click to view]

[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

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

Meta information
Contributor:Taiwan Environmental Information Association
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1977
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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