The Madness of the Microchip: Labor and Environmental Exploitation in the Development of Silicon Valley




Hasewinkle, Adam Joseph

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This thesis examines the illusory nature of progress regarding the development of Silicon Valley, America's tech hub focusing on the 1960s-1980s. The microelectronics, or tech, industry that gave Silicon Valley its name built off previously established patterns of labor and environmental exploitation in the Santa Clara Valley region. The tech industry specifically curated immigrants, and mainly women and persons of color, to work low-level manufacturing roles. The industry viewed this labor force as expendable, exposing them to hazardous working conditions while simultaneously trying to limit union presence in electronics manufacturing. It was also discovered in the 1980s that the fabrication facilities throughout Silicon Valley had been contaminating the local groundwater through leaks in their underground chemical storage tanks, most of which were in lower-income communities of color. The industry would eventually outsource the majority of its low-level manufacturing hubs, leaving the afflicted workers and environment behind, seeking out cheaper pools of labor. Examining Silicon Valley's past prompts a deeper look at our current relationship with the tech industry and its products. This industry and its products have become indicative of progress, but is such a label appropriate?


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Computer History, Electronics, History, Labor History, Microchips, Silicon Valley