JILIN PROVINCE, China (TheSkunk.org) — The Chinese government is hiring thousands of American workers to lay track for the country’s state-of-the-art, high-speed rail system. According to government officials, over 10,000 miles of track must be installed over the next two years, and employing Americans is far more cost effective than hiring their Chinese counterparts.
The Americans have shown they are “eager to work anywhere, for any amount of pay,” according to Chen Wing, Secretary of High Speed Transit. “It takes the Chinese workers a month to lay five miles of track, but the Americans can do it in a week on a salary of $2.00 a day.”
For the Americans, the days are long, and the work, laborious. Their lives are itinerant — working the rails by day, sleeping in handmade thatched huts by night. The huts are bunched together in temporary “Round Eye” villages that spring up each night, adjacent to wherever the most recent section of that day’s rail work happens to be located.
In the morning, the villages are disassembled. The huts are stuffed into bags that the workers must carry on their backs as they hammer spikes into railroad ties and carry heavy iron rails on their shoulders.
“The Americans are willing to take on this back-breaking work,” explained Chen, “because in their own homeland they haven’t received paychecks in years, and they hunger for a job and the self-esteem that comes…”
Chen’s discourse was cut short by a blood-curdling scream that filled the air.
The shriek came from a worker whose arm was struck by a coworker’s pry bar — a tool used for aligning the tracks — something that happens with frequency in the railroad industry.
There is no sick leave here, and Americans are instructed to work though any pain they encounter on the job — if they expect to get paid.
Chen ran over to offer assistance to the worker, whose right arm was dangling from his shoulder by a few sinewy threads. The worker’s face turned chalk-white as blood spurted furiously from a severed artery. Chen examined the injury, then shouted to the man something in Chinese.
Hoinchi Gong-Zua, “Get back to work!” ordered Chen as he grabbed the pry bar and smashed it into the side of the worker’s head. The American wobbled for a second, then dropped to the ground, taking one last breath before he expired.
Death is a regular occurrence along the mountainous, treacherous terrain that will be the eventual pathway of the world’s most technologically advanced railroad. The dead Americans are allowed to be buried only during lunch breaks, time permitting; otherwise, they are left where they fall.
Chen quickly told the surviving workers the only way their comrade’s death would not be in vain is if they quickened their pace.
The work sped up, day turned into night, and another Round Eye village arose by the side of the tracks, a ghostly visage that would be gone by daybreak.
For the Americans, the risk of death is seen as a fair trade-off, not only for the ability to send a bag of rice now and then to their loved ones back home, but for the pride they feel knowing that behind the “Made in China” label stands an American labor force, second to none.
The Chinese hope to complete the railway by 2014.