Apple‘s labour practices have been under the spotlight a lot this year since a monologue by Mike Daisey published by the podcast This American Life gained widespread interest and led to international protests against the manufacturer of the iPhone and iPad. The monologue was eventually retracted after This American Life found Daisey to have fabricated numerous details in his report, thanks to the investigative work of Rob Schmitz, China correspondent of Marketplace.
Now, Schmitz attempts to tell us what life is really like for the 240,000 workers at Foxconn‘s Longhua factory in Shenzhen that are making your iPads. He meets one worker who tells him the job is “useless and repetitive”, another who’s pregnant and says her supervisor didn’t allow her to switch to another assembly line without the fumes that make her feel sick, and even a worker who ends up inviting Schmitz to his village.
Listen to his report here (transcript):
Also a great read — Rob Schmitz’s “Reporter’s Note”:
The first misconception I had about Foxconn’s Longhua facility in the city of Shenzhen was that I’ve always called it a ‘factory’ — technically, it is. But after you enter the gates and walk around, you quickly realize that it’s also a city — 240,000 people work here. Nearly 50,000 of them live on campus in shared dorm rooms. There’s a main drag lined on both sides with fast-food restaurants, banks, cafes, grocery stores, a wedding photo shop, and an automated library. There are basketball courts, tennis courts, a gym, two enormous swimming pools, and a bright green astroturf soccer stadium smack-dab in the middle of campus. There’s a radio station — Voice of Foxconn — and a television news station. Longhua even has its own fire department, located right on main street. This is not what comes to mind when you think “Chinese factory.”
Yet it is: as you walk beyond the civic center of Longhua, the buildings begin to change. You find yourself walking through alleys surrounded by looming factory buildings. You stop, look up, and they’re everywhere: the nets. In 2010, Foxconn installed thick netting on buildings throughout this campus. They jut out horizontally from the exterior walls, suspended 20 feet off the ground. They were a response to a string of suicides that year which plagued the company. Louis Woo, special assistant to Foxconn CEO Terry Gou, tells me that when they purchased these nets in the spring of 2010, the company wiped out the entire Asian supply of netting for weeks. That’s what happens when the world’s tenth largest employer makes a quick economic decision. I look up at them and think of the people who jumped. I tell Louis how depressing they look, just suspended up there, waiting to catch someone. “I don’t care how they look,” he tells me, “if we can save one life with these nets, they’re completely worth it.”
I ask him if the nets have saved lives. “After we installed the nets in the summer of 2010,” Louis says with a sigh, “two workers jumped. One of them died. The other lived.” [Read more here]
And finally, Schmitz’s video report: