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May 19, 2010 8:03 PM   Subscribe

A (translated) Chinese report on life as a factory worker at Foxconn, the company that manufactures iPhones and other gadgets. Each employee would sign a "voluntary overtime affidavit," in order to waive the 36-hour legal limit on your monthly overtime hours. This isn't a bad thing, though, as many workers think that only factories that offer more overtime are "good factories," because "without overtime, you can hardly make a living."
posted by ignignokt (127 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ultimately there's only ONE Job Steve truly cares about.
posted by HTuttle at 8:05 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


HURF DURF APPLE STEVE JOBS AMIRITE

Fairly interesting look at what living standards must be like in much of southeast Asia and China, where people actively aim for jobs like these instead of the alternatives available to them.

Damn am I ever lucky to have been born a white dude in the first world.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:08 PM on May 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


And if you lose your iPhone there, they torture you until you commit suicide.
posted by kafziel at 8:10 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


without overtime, you can hardly make a living

Just like every $10/hr job I've ever held (in Canada). UNIVERSALISM YAY
posted by fatehunter at 8:12 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


In a Mexican Foxconn factory the management detained the trucks coming to bring the workers home so that they'd have to stay late (and put in unpaid overtime). The workers did not take kindly to this and burned the place down.
posted by enn at 8:17 PM on May 19, 2010 [16 favorites]


Just watching a report on security guards at Foxconn's Beijing plant beating up workers - all over minor disputes as people queue up to clock on.
posted by Abiezer at 8:20 PM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh those Mexican stereotypists. Did they fire guns in the air, too?
posted by rokusan at 8:20 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll probably regret saying this in the morning but good for the Mexicans.
posted by Tashtego at 8:40 PM on May 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


First worlders will do anything to deny the reality that our consumption has a price that is paid by people we never meet.
posted by serazin at 8:57 PM on May 19, 2010 [13 favorites]


UNIVERSALISM YAY

Unless you've worked with a barista who was tortured to death by your employer's thugs just for smuggling a latte recipe out of a Starbucks, your minimum-wage job and theirs may not be precisely comparable.
posted by mhoye at 9:02 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


My iPod was made at the North Pole by volunteers with special needs so my conscience is clear.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:07 PM on May 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think it's interesting that the article, along with critiquing factory conditions and low pay, is primarily a cultural critique. These kids play the lottery and wish for the wealth that the crap they make symbolizes. It hints at the social corruption that the US exports in exchange for all this STUFF we import. It's bleaker than other stories that focus only on poor working conditions, because, as the author points out, conditions are bit better at Foxconn than in your average, less regulated Chinese factory, but there's a sort of emotional loss that seems deeper.
posted by serazin at 9:09 PM on May 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Great idea, bad piece. It's all impressionistic flash that tells me more about the writer than the subject.

I still have no idea what a typical day is like for a Foxconn worker, their lives, what literally brought them there, what they do on their days off with no money, how the experience compares to other factories, the context of Foxconn in the market - is it an inspiration to other factories? What kind of profits does it post, does it operate in other countries, what is its corporate structure?

A lot of this stuff would have been easy enough for even a cadet journalist to get and write about. That's shitty reporting right there, and sadly all too typical.
posted by smoke at 9:11 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Foxconn (the group company name is Hon Hai Precision) has been catching a LOT of flack back home in Taiwan for their treatment of their employees in China, and for the rash of suicides at their plants that have just now started making headlines. They hired monks this week to provide some counseling and support for the workers. Workers at another company in the tech supply chain, Wintek, are also having health issues because of the chemical used to clean touch screens for - among other things - the iPhone.

It's especially awful that much of this is preventable, we would just have to pay a tiny little more for our gadgets...
posted by gemmy at 9:14 PM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Unless you've worked with a barista who was tortured to death by your employer's thugs just for smuggling a latte recipe out of a Starbucks, your minimum-wage job and theirs may not be precisely comparable.

I was comparing my experience to the line "without overtime, you can hardly make a living." In case quoting that line (and only that line) in my reply above wasn't clear.
posted by fatehunter at 9:28 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it's interesting that the article, along with critiquing factory conditions and low pay, is primarily a cultural critique.
That's largely a function of what the mainstream press can say and the type of young university-educated reporter they were able to get in the factory I think (not saying their observations were inaccurate, just why this cultural aspect was given greater weight).
As an example of something a bit deeper, Prof Pun Ngai has produced some very interesting work (she spent seven months on a production line before writing her ethnography Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace; if you read German there's a translation of another book she wrote with Li Wanwei here, including links to a couple of other texts in English). You also see more explicitly political critiques in Chinese but, as I say, not the sort of thing even a fairly bold newspaper like Southern Weekend can/will print.
posted by Abiezer at 9:28 PM on May 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


Yeah this is weird, I expected a Foxconn FPP this week, I din't expect one with no mention of the 30+ suicide attempts there in the last month, that seems to be the big story surrounding Foxconn.
posted by chaff at 9:28 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


"didn't", sorry
posted by chaff at 9:29 PM on May 19, 2010


"Foxconn Group provides a series of programs to help employees keep a balance between their work and personal life. Several courses and consultations are offered, free of charge, on topics such as caring for newborn babies and children and managing family finances. Our human resource department also sponsors and actively organize various social activities for single employees."
Foxconn Corporate Social & Environmental Responsibility Report 2008 [PDF]
posted by unliteral at 9:41 PM on May 19, 2010


It will be interesting to see how the level of outrage about this compares to the amount directed at Gizmodo for paying $5000 for an iPhone prototype.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 9:48 PM on May 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


HURF DURF APPLE STEVE JOBS AMIRITE

Seriously, Metafilter, wtf? Who do you think your Android phones are being made by? White-gloved Swiss guildsmen who wear smocks and monocles, who work on fluffy pillows whilst breathing purified, imported Alpen air, being paid in chocolate-covered gold? Fucking hell.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:50 PM on May 19, 2010 [19 favorites]


It's especially awful that much of this is preventable, we would just have to pay a tiny little more for our gadgets...

That, or Apple could take less profit. But what would we actually be paying for? Moving the factory somewhere else? Creating working conditions that are drastically better than the local alternative employers? Those both seem likely to disemploy people currently working there rather than help them.
posted by scottreynen at 9:51 PM on May 19, 2010


without overtime, you can hardly make a living

Just like every $10/hr job I've ever held (in Canada). UNIVERSALISM YAY


You make a good point. While portrayals of factory working conditions in China often focus on giving us that warm fuzzy sense of "phew thank God I'm a first-worlder" combined with a nice dose of outrage and guilt, I think this article points out the disturbing parallels between "our world" and theirs. That goes not just for the people scraping by on minimum wage, but also for those of us with jobs that necessitate checking one's email all weekend long (on the same iPhones these guys manufacture.) I think the author points out the dark side to this all-consuming, manic drive for productivity, something most of us live and breathe.
posted by a sourceless light at 9:53 PM on May 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


CSR is notoriously 'the corporate equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig'; it's no substitute for political controls and indeed the best performers by even such watered-down standards remain the state-owned enterprises.
posted by Abiezer at 10:02 PM on May 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


White-gloved Swiss guildsmen who wear smocks and monocles, who work on fluffy pillows whilst breathing purified, imported Alpen air,

But BP, why would they need to import the Alpine air? Goddamn that's so wasteful. Disgusting, resource hog Android makers. Somebody oughta... something... etc.

More seriously, people are picking iphones because of a) the suicides mentioned above that indicate this company is, in fact, beyond the norm, especially so compared with some workshops in other countries like Taiwan

b) It's a super popular, yet unique, product that many people want and recognise immediately

c) The company like to market itself as cutting edge, progressive, "cool" and the kind of thing young people would like - young people that care more about this kind of thing, or at least profess to.

d) the products are some of the more expensive on the market - coupled with the price it makes people wonder what they are paying the extra money for, when its killing employees.

So in this respect, I think the attention on Apple and Foxconn is pretty understandable.
posted by smoke at 10:03 PM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Apple should charge extra for free-range iPhones.
posted by w0mbat at 10:27 PM on May 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


From Foxconn's wikipedia article:

"Foxconn is the largest manufacturer of electronics and computer components worldwide, and mainly manufactures on contract to other companies. Among other things, Foxconn produces the Mac mini, the iPod, the iPad, and the iPhone for Apple Inc.; Intel-branded motherboards for Intel Corp.; various orders for American computer manufacturers Dell and Hewlett-Packard; motherboards for UK computer manufacturer Zoostorm; the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 for Sony; the Wii for Nintendo; the Xbox 360 for Microsoft, cell phones for Motorola, the Amazon Kindle, and Cisco equipment."


Essentially, if you are reading this website, you are likely using products manufactured by Foxconn. Something to think about.
posted by potch at 10:35 PM on May 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


thanks for the links Abiezer
posted by serazin at 10:53 PM on May 19, 2010


We do have Fair Trade Certified coffee and bananas and whatnot, so Fair Trade Certified consumer electronics doesn't seem like such a stretch.
posted by Harald74 at 11:24 PM on May 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


"F*ck Steve Jobs, f*ck Apple, and f*ck everybody who buys their products"

... says the lady on her Droid phone, wearing clothes produced with child and slave labor, as she heads to the grocery store to buy overly packaged and processed foods made on an industrial scale (like beef and corn), in an SUV that runs on oil from the middle east and sports a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker.

In fairness to her, though, her husband has diabetes, her son has autism, and she just lost her job and her family's health insurance after Walmart drove her shop out of business. And for some reason her puppy-farm-raised dog is yapping at the reflected light coming off the huge blood diamond on her ring finger. A diamond she can't seem to sell thanks to the De Beers cartel.

But yeah, "f*ck Apple"

Disclaimer: no, shinty-seven wrongs don't make a right. I am not living in a cave and subsisting on berries and lichen, nor do I expect others to. It's just that selective and trendy outrage against individual companies can seem a bit arbitrary and hypocritical coming from the average consumer. By all means call out bad practices when you find them and do try to avoid them as best you can. But at the end of the day, the outrage should be tempered by the reality that even the best among us are still bulls in the global china shop.
posted by Davenhill at 11:34 PM on May 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


Working in a factory sucks, period.

But that's an outrageous number of suicides. It's incumbent on employers to provide a safe and respectful working environment for employees (which obviously rarely happens, anywhere).

Just sad all around. But so very precious to see Apple defenders instictively spew out the argument that two wrongs make a right. Nice one, fellas.
posted by bardic at 12:35 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's just that selective and trendy outrage against individual companies can seem a bit arbitrary and hypocritical coming from the average consumer. By all means call out bad practices when you find them and do try to avoid them as best you can. But at the end of the day, the outrage should be tempered by the reality that even the best among us are still bulls in the global china shop.

This sounds like reasoning I've heard from an old boss: the real danger is that once a precedent is set where a company reacts to badgering, fixes a problem that has hurt someone without being forced to do so legally, or does anything to show that they may have made a mistake, that then sets the stage for more change, more safety, more justice (e.g. lawsuits or criminal charges), i.e. higher costs (a mere annoyance to the overall system really).

It all comes down to risk/benefit/cost analysis in a market based system - monetary value gets ascribed to everything, even us people. And if you have hundreds of billions of dollars on hand from riding on top of the system, as some of us do, then the deaths of your fellow human beings translates to an occasional, affordable, forgettable downward blip of your quarterly statement. I agree, it's depressing. I think it shouldn't be this way, some day it probably won't be. It's untenable because market systems for all aspects of existence conflicts with science/nature, the very limited nature of existence on this dirt spheroid.
posted by peppito at 2:08 AM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


But so very precious to see Apple defenders instictively spew out the argument that two wrongs make a right. Nice one, fellas.

WTF are you calling out just Apple, when this same company is the one who builds the PS3, the Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii -- total 150 million units, and all still selling?

Compare that to 50 million iPhones?

I'm not defending Apple. I'm just wondering why you're scapegoating them. If this is a problem for Apple, this is a problem for Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo -- and Cisco, Intel, Dell, and a bunch of other names you've heard of.
posted by eriko at 2:22 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


They're just doing what our economic system requires.

It'll be exciting whenever the inevitable paradox of a growth economy acting within a closed system really starts to cause trouble.

And for the time being at least, we're all enmeshed in this immoral system that exploits impoverished people and pretends we're doing it for their benefit rather than in service of profit and capital.
posted by knapah at 3:07 AM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


At least they aren't making shell casings.
posted by furtive at 3:46 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thing is, an economic system based on having people in the Third World making stuff on a pittance, while most people in the First World basically get paid for convincing each other to buy more of that stuff on credit, credit that is only available because of the savings of those Third World workers that make the stuff, well such an economic system doesn't strike me as particularly sustainable.
posted by Skeptic at 4:07 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


WTF are you calling out just Apple, when this same company is the one who builds the PS3, the Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii -- total 150 million units, and all still selling?

Looks pretty unanswerable to me.
posted by Wolof at 4:35 AM on May 20, 2010


And for the time being at least, we're all enmeshed in this immoral system that exploits impoverished people and pretends we're doing it for their benefit rather than in service of profit and capital.

It is true that we are all caught up in a fairly rotten industrial system, but each to a varying degree. If buying a certain sort of product does a certain amount of harm, one person may do five times more harm than another person does by buying five times more junk. Some people rarely buy gadgets; other people always have the latest gadget for everything and piles of the slightly older models collecting dust in boxes and drawers. Etc.

So, yeah, slap labels on products:
"[icon] This product was made according to [international regulating body] guidelines for employee welfare."
"[icon] This product was made according to [international regulating body] guidelines for environmental protection."
etc.

Let companies use such labels to market their products to people who are willing to pay extra to be good. Let governments use them to help determine tax rates and tariffs. Let shoppers vote with their wallets to improve conditions for foreign workers.
posted by pracowity at 4:46 AM on May 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


Is there some charity one can donate to that advocates for employee rights in China? So I could buy a $500 laptop, and donate an extra 10% to get a human-rights upgrade.

Sort of like a guilt offset.
posted by miyabo at 5:08 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Friends of China Labour Bulletin has a donations page.
posted by Abiezer at 5:12 AM on May 20, 2010


Thing is, those labels inevitably get redefined and watered down to be rather useless. For an example look at te term "organic" in the US.
The other issue I have seen is that there is nothing stopping a company from claiming that something is fair trade, charging you more for it and still not paying the farmers/workersa fair portion. The company rides the coattails of a cause and rake in profits. There are companies that love the fair trade lable because it adds to their market appeal. (yes I'm feeling cynical today)
Don't get me wrong, some fair trade companies are above board and doing good things. I tend to trust artisan trade sales comanies more than big business. However, I have gotten to the point that I don't knoew who I can trust anymore. I'm only finding articles from 2007-2998 about fair trade profiting business far more than the wrokers. Have things changed? are there more regulation

It also frustrates me that we might know where some things are made, but it is very difficult (and sometimes impossible) for a consumer to know where the components are coming from. I know, for example, that many medications that are made in the US are using asdjuvants and delivery components from other countries, including China. (This is why any push for country of origin labeling of pharceuticals is misguided)
posted by Librarygeek at 5:25 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love my iPhone. A lot. So naturally, I'm defensive about this.

Still, it seems to me that if you crunch the numbers, I'm financially underwriting far more misery and death overseas simply by paying federal income tax than I am by owning an iPhone.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:30 AM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Seriously, Metafilter, wtf? Who do you think your Android phones are being made by?

BP, I am disappoint. "Well you do it too!" is not a defense.
posted by DU at 5:42 AM on May 20, 2010


So that's where the jobs all went. Flash forward 30 years. What will we all be doing here in the first world?
posted by mygoditsbob at 5:54 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thing is, those labels inevitably get redefined and watered down to be rather useless. For an example look at te term "organic" in the US.

Do it like CE and UL markings, but focus on how the thing was made, not on the thing itself.
posted by pracowity at 6:07 AM on May 20, 2010


without overtime, you can hardly make a living

Just like every $10/hr job I've ever held (in Canada). UNIVERSALISM YAY


Seriously, fatehunter? I don't know where you're living or what your living standards are, but with a full-time minimum wage job you stand to make at least around a grand a month after tax. In your average city, that's enough for a shared apartment (or a bachelor pad), more than enough food so you don't starve, and luxuries like a cellphone or a computer and maybe even a car, if you're careful about your savings. If you're with a partner and both of you are working minimum wage, you'll bring in enough to raise a child. It may not be pretty, but compared to the living conditions of most factory workers in the developing world, that's practically extravagant.
posted by Phire at 6:17 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is something the soft goods industry went through almost 15 years ago during the Kathy Lee Gifford sweatshop scandal and the Nike scandal. The end results of it were raised awareness, raised standards in some cases and new alternatives (think American Apparel) in others, more selective shopping by consumers, better oversight by the industry (although still far from perfect) and industry practice of adding conformance data in their logistics tools so that for any given customer they could rate and filter based on how they conformed to their own set of standards. At least that way they aren't caught off guard and they can keep their conscience clean at a level they are comfortable with.

Sadly, 15 years later things have only improved marginally, and so don't expect any of the suggestions up thread to make much of a difference either. The problem is bigger than simple regulation. While it may seem that some countries have smaller class systems than others, the truth is they've simply exported the unwanted classes to other countries.
posted by furtive at 6:40 AM on May 20, 2010


Yeah, I saw a documentary recently about a Chinese blue jean factory, shot undercover on smuggled-in cameras. If the iPhone factory upsets you, you might want to take an even longer look at where your jeans come from. Mandatory overtime, 18-hour days, delayed (or docked pay), and all done by 14 year-olds.
posted by statolith at 6:47 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, Metafilter, wtf? Who do you think your Android phones are being made by?

Seriously, apple fanboi's, wtf? Why would you automatically take offence at anything written that isn't a full on approval / endorsement of Apple and Steve Jobs ?

The piece is clear that products across most consumer tech are manufactured by Foxconn and doesn't strike me as having a focus on Apple at all.

Even those here who don't like Apple have mostly concentrated on the human aspects of this story. In fact most of the Apple mentions here are from people knee jerkingly justifying their purchase of an Apple product even though Foxconn aren't particularly decent.

The only reason Apple gets the headlines is because Apple is currently making the headlines (for good reasons). So, when something that isn't good, even though they are not the only one involved, is news its obvious they are going to get a little extra coverage.

Were Nike the only clothing company utilising sweat shop labour ? No, of course they weren't, but as a market leader they drew more flak than most.

FFS please realise that its not all about Apple, that it is impossible for Apple to never do something wrong (they are a corporation after all whose only real obligation is to chase profit) and that people who point these things out from time to time are just pointing things out from time to time.

I mean if you want a full blown 'I love apple / I hate apple' argument you wouldn't have to go far. Why bring it in to every fucking discussion possible.

Your outrage, in a thread about forced labour and suicide, being directed at people becasue they only have a go at Apple is damningly offensive. Wake up for god's sake. Most things are MUCH more important than which fucking OS you like !
posted by Boslowski at 6:59 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I suspect every Chinese factory would look as bad with similar investigation. The difference with this Apple/FoxConn story is that you could imagine consumers pressuring Apple to do something about FoxConn. A bit like the previous sweatshop stories around Nike, The Gap, etc. OTOH, that may change a few factories, not the global realities of wealthy American consumers and cheap Chinese labour happy to get jobs building things for us.
posted by Nelson at 7:31 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The piece is clear that products across most consumer tech are manufactured by Foxconn and doesn't strike me as having a focus on Apple at all.

The post and some of the earlier comments are singling out Apple, hence the backlash.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:34 AM on May 20, 2010


it seems to me that if you crunch the numbers, I'm financially underwriting far more misery and death overseas simply by paying federal income tax than I am by owning an iPhone.

So therefore why bother doing anything? You have a bit more power over your decision whether or not to buy the latest gadget than you do over whether to pay taxes (although of course you have agency in that as well, and where my taxes go is one reason I've always worked part time and lived on lower pay.)

We do have the ability to make an impact in these matters. We can choose to buy less, buy used, buy union where possible. And pressuring the high profile companies that profit from this - Apple - or whoever else is the focus of the moment - is a proven strategy for getting them to do something about their subcontractors.
posted by serazin at 8:09 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, honestly this shit won't get better unless workers take those Mexican's approach.

That said, one stepping stone might be retasking some defense spending for "secure electronics", i.e. subsidizing U.S. or E.U. fabs that guaranteed their production was entirely inside the U.S or E.U. respectively, along with several other trustworthy countries.

All military contractors handling classified information would be required to use only these products, but anybody else could buy them too. So kinda like "made in the USA" for electronics but the manufacturer's execs go down for treason if they secretly outsource.

In other words, you solve the underlying class problem by finding excuses to declare some workers higher class, and pay for it using the military budget. Yes, most people will still buy their $300 netbook from China, but that yields an unrelated equalizing effect within the first world country, i.e. buy American if you fear industrial espionage.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:14 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I saw that documentary about making jeans, how representatives from companies always bargained to reduce the price, how well the factory owner lived, what he thought of his workers, and workers using clothes pegs to keep their eyes opened to appear to be working when they needed sleep. It was heartbreaking.

I also saw a documentary on Chinese migrant workers (and I'm not suggesting by mentioned Chinese workers that they are the only workers affected by this type of exploitation, feel free to chime in and list others in outrage) in the Caribbean being exploited with the support of several American politicians who apparently "had no idea".

There's the recent hostage taking in another migrant worker situation. Deplorable conditions in Trinidad.

Essentially, if you are reading this website, you are likely using products manufactured by Foxconn. Something to think about.

I have no issue with anyone pointing out that many manufacturers are using factories like this, that my netbook I'm using right now is probably soaked in misery as it were and that you, me, and a whole lot of people don't do anything about it. But to imply that others are not aware of this (not that the quote above does so) just because Apple is mentioned strikes me as rather trite. I'd be surprised if a single person thought this was an "only Apple" problem. We are not that clueless.

I disagree that Apple is in a special position of influence to do anything about it, nor Dell, or HP, or the GAP. They've all given lip service to it but in the end, it continues on. In some ways Apple has become shorthand for some for what is good in the world (as ridiculous as that is) and Microsoft has largely become shorthand for what is evil in the world (again utterly absurd), Dell for what is cheap and garbage in the world, etc. All bloody nonsense of course but the affect is seen in many discussions. Critical of Apple? Well you're a hater and other do it too. Complimentary of Microsoft? You're a sheep and unrefined and uncreative. So the they do it to is rather much like a loop. That sort of argument is pretty unsettling and unfortunate and is typical of the quality of comments you find on YouTube rather than MetaFilter.

I'm sure those who are pointing out that it's just not Apple also point out it's just not Walmart but Apple and many other companies too in Walmart threads. Bless their souls for pointing these things out with grace and respect, just in case we like totally didn't know that.
posted by juiceCake at 8:16 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The post and some of the earlier comments are singling out Apple, hence the backlash.

Well, yes, Apple was mentioned. I know that. That's because they are relevant to the post. My point was that they are singled out because currently they are King of the Castle, it kinda just goes with the territory, - exactly as was the case for Nike (and I didn't once hear anyone justify Nike's behavior along the lines of everyone is doing it) - not because there is an axe to grind.

And even if there is some axe grinding going on it, in this situation it should be ignored because clearly the outrage in this thread SHOULD be about forced labour and suicide not about 'OMG why don't you like apple, you damn haterz'

Please please please could we find some perspective on the increasingly tedious Apple vs all the other OS's out there meme. The fact that it has surfaced in a thread of this kind is ample evidence that the whole thing has been blown out of proportion.

Being outraged at a company for behaviour of this kind is very understandable.

Being outraged because your favourite company has been referenced more than others, in this context, is pretty outrageous.
posted by Boslowski at 8:16 AM on May 20, 2010


There was nothing Apple or iPhone specific about this post or its material. That it was framed that way cheapens the subject. It would have been better to list a lot of the companies that Foxconn builds products for than any specific one.

The issue is that some of are reaping transient rewards (in the form of latest gadget) while others work in shitty conditions to provide those gadgets. There's a whole lot of blame to spread around. Turning it into OS war belittles the seriousness of the situation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:31 AM on May 20, 2010


Maybe you're all too into the OS wars to see it, but from a bystander's perspective, the iPhone is a natural stand-in for whatever is most new, shiny, and desired right now. It's the antithesis of some SUV-centred story (for MeFites anyway) where people feel free to denigrate a particular aspect of consumer culture they share no identity with.

There's a certain helplessness to threads like this, with people basically saying "How can I avoid contrubuting to this? It doesn't seem possible." But it also seems mixed with a little bit of "hands off my favourite toy" in this particular case, which is as good a reason as any to highlight the trail of this particular good from the hands that made it to ours.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:51 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Let companies use such labels to market their products to people who are willing to pay extra to be good. Let governments use them to help determine tax rates and tariffs. Let shoppers vote with their wallets to improve conditions for foreign workers.

Thing is, those labels inevitably get redefined and watered down to be rather useless. For an example look at te term "organic" in the US.
The other issue I have seen is that there is nothing stopping a company from claiming that something is fair trade, charging you more for it and still not paying the farmers/workersa fair portion. The company rides the coattails of a cause and rake in profits. There are companies that love the fair trade lable because it adds to their market appeal. (yes I'm feeling cynical today)


Ha! the 'most favorited' reform of the market approach here is to add yet another layer of the market approach (a system of labelling that you can game, i.e. branding).

Infinite Loop, indeed.
posted by peppito at 9:07 AM on May 20, 2010


Also, guys? Could we stop mixing up average sweatshop work (long hours, low pay, dormitory living) with actual unmitigated evil (beating/killing employees, forced labor, child labor, etc.)? As long as people can choose to quit one job and move to another, there's a limit on how bad an employer can be. But when an employer starts using physical violence to keep employees in line, it's crossed the line from an employment relationship into slavery. Foxconn is getting very very close to that line.
posted by miyabo at 9:26 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you're with a partner and both of you are working minimum wage, you'll bring in enough to raise a child. It may not be pretty, but compared to the living conditions of most factory workers in the developing world, that's practically extravagant.

The problem with the first sentence is, even if you can scrape by and raise a child on two people's minimum wage earnings, there is nothing for emergencies, and I assume no healthcare. The next trip to the emergency room or car that breaks down is going to have a catastrophic effect. "Enough" is not really enough. The problem with the comparison you make is that costs are much higher here than in parts of the world where indentured servitude is still common.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:33 AM on May 20, 2010


See, this is why we can have nice things.

/gallows humor
posted by sourwookie at 9:39 AM on May 20, 2010


Well, yes, Apple was mentioned. I know that. That's because they are relevant to the post

It is fairly irrelevant, or only relevant to the extent that every damn one of us in this thread using a computer, cell phone, video game console or other consumer electronic device is to blame.

But Metafilter needs a scapegoat to help point the finger somewhere else, and Apple will do.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:40 AM on May 20, 2010


Because "A Chinese report on life as a factory worker at Foxconn, the company that manufactures HTC HERO and other gadgets" wouldn't get near as many page views from tech blog referrals. And page hits are where it's at.
posted by sourwookie at 10:03 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I doubt any person here actually cares, all claims to the contrary.

There are bodies piled under every corner of your home. Stacks of them. Men, women, children. The blood is an inch deep in your bathroom alone.

But the solution is to just buy a different product? That maybe this manufacturer doesn't wade through carnage to get the box to your door?

Sure.

Pretend all you want, you're still just closing your eyes, hoping not to hear the death rattle from beneath your stereo. Tomorrow there'll be another few corpses in the kitchen. Unless you're a pretty hard-core ascetic (Acharya Vidyasagar springs to mind), your comfort is built on anonymous suffering and death on a truly staggering scale.
posted by aramaic at 10:08 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anyone interested in this topic should read the excellent book Factory Girls.

Despite horrendous working and living conditions, people continue to flock to the cities to compete for these jobs, and migrate from city to city in search of them. From what they say to the reporter in this book, even these sweatshop labor jobs are better than rural life.
posted by jfwlucy at 10:15 AM on May 20, 2010


krinklyfig, the poster I was responding to is in Canada where the health care situation may not be ideal, but where we'll certainly cover emergencies. (Health care in the US is a whole other issue we shouldn't get into in this thread.) If a car breaks down, most cities have relatively affordable public transit that will at least allow you to get around and get to work in the interim.

My argument wasn't that minimum wage was enough, or that we should be complacent about the level of standard of living that the current minimum wage levels provide, but that it seems a little bit insensitive to compare "living on minimum wage in a first-world country with a somewhat decent social security net" with "working at sweatshops in a developing country for a wage so low that you fear days off".
posted by Phire at 10:16 AM on May 20, 2010


But Metafilter needs a scapegoat to help point the finger somewhere else, and Apple will do.

Dude, come on !

There are at least 3 reasons mentioned in this thread as to why Apple is referenced, not one of them is a scapegoat position, and not one of them is based on disliking Apple. On the contrary all 3 are pointing out that this is just an inevitable consequence of Apple's current leading position - an acknowledgement if you will of what Apple has achieved (even if that acknowledgement is grudgingly given).

1. They are market leaders (the Nike situation)
2. They have become synonomous with shiny shiny / cutting edge / leading tech
3. They provide a much better chance that the posting will hit the blogs

Please get over the fact that some people don't like Apple...it really has no place in a discussion of grotesque abuses of human rights.
posted by Boslowski at 11:15 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Please get over the fact that some people don't like Apple...it really has no place in a discussion of grotesque abuses of human rights.

If you genuinely cared about human and workers rights, it wouldn't really matter that Foxconn is making Apple products, specifically, when they make so many other consumer electronic devices that all of you use.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:27 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you serious BP? Everyone here agrees that virtually all consumer electronics are produced by labor conditions which are inhumane, at best. Targeting specific companies is a useful tool for pressuring the industry as a whole. Apple is an particularly useful target because alternative types such as the denizens of metafilter are drawn to these products. Apple must deal with their labor issues if these issues are made public, because ugly labor issues tarnish their alterna-reputation. I don't get it - is there an argument against targeting Apple, which I am missing?

(This comment was typed on my iBook.)
posted by serazin at 12:05 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been impatiently waiting for the new generation of iPod Touches to be launched, so I can replace my well-loved second-hand 5th gen iPod, and this post has served as a welcome punch to the stomach. When I first read about the conditions at Foxconn I resolved to be a more careful consumer, but apparently it's easy to let myself forget that when I get all gadget lusty. Maybe I'll search around for a media player/ebook reader made somewhere less exploitative (fat chance, I guess), or buy second-hand again.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:08 PM on May 20, 2010


I don't get it - is there an argument against targeting Apple, which I am missing?

To me, it would have more powerful if the post contained a larger range of devices that Foxconn makes, hitting home that pretty much everyone reading the site is complicit in some way. The singling out of Apple just looks like an attack on a single company.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:13 PM on May 20, 2010


Maybe I'll search around for a media player/ebook reader made somewhere less exploitative (fat chance, I guess), or buy second-hand again.

Buying second hand is probably the right move here. The other music players are probably also made by slaves, so if you've made up your mind that you're going to get one anyway, might as well get a used one off craiglist (or better yet, one that a methhead shoplifted from a bigbox store) so that least the manufacturer doesn't see a dime of your money toward their bottom line.
posted by hamida2242 at 12:27 PM on May 20, 2010


Uh, what? Once it is in the store, the manufacturer has made their money. What are you, 12?
posted by entropicamericana at 12:39 PM on May 20, 2010


Uh, what? Once it is in the store, the manufacturer has made their money. What are you, 12?

Buying a used item (represents, from manufacturer's POV, 1 sale) v. buying, from the manufacturer, another new item (2 sales).
posted by applemeat at 1:12 PM on May 20, 2010


I was referring to the edgy "shoplift from a bigbox store" option.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:26 PM on May 20, 2010


Well it was hypothetical- if you're is going to buy (for example) a used ipod touch, and thus deprive apple of your money, why not go all the way and buy one from Joe the crackhead and deprive walmart of your money too? And that's even setting aside that Joe's is not only cheaper, but new-in-box on top of it. There are ethical concerns about buying stolen property of course, but the discussion's already gotten to the point that buying consumer electronics made by slave labor is a forgone conclusion or something.

Buying a used item (represents, from manufacturer's POV, 1 sale) v. buying, from the manufacturer, another new item (2 sales).

This is even more true when it comes to things like used CD's and video games. Publishers/developers/etc don't see any money on resales so if you're buying used you might as well just pirate. That is, unless you want to support local-owned business (which I think is a good thing to do). Digital distribution is as much about reducing resales as it is anything else.
posted by hamida2242 at 2:40 PM on May 20, 2010


What are you, 12?

I've often thought, if I was a number, I'd like to be 14. I'd hate to 82. 11 and 69 are acceptable.
posted by juiceCake at 3:31 PM on May 20, 2010


Is this something I'd have to be a petty criminal (in both senses of the word, it seems) to understand?
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:16 PM on May 20, 2010


I was mostly thinking of CEX, and not of buying stolen goods.

Publishers/developers/etc don't see any money on resales

It's off-topic, but that's not going to remain the case for all video games.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:45 PM on May 20, 2010



If you genuinely cared about human and workers rights, it wouldn't really matter that Foxconn is making Apple products, specifically, when they make so many other consumer electronic devices that all of you use.


I don't campaign for human rights, I'm not particularly active in these areas.

That said I can still make the case that when faced with a thread like this a response to naming and shaming Apple like your response is offensive and wrong.

I do get it by the way. You love Apple, their products and the attendant associations. You've been fighting what feels like a lonely war against the 'haterz' and you just can't help yourself when something makes you doubt the saintly credentials of your chosen messiah.

You need to rebase your relationship with Apple a little, you are coming across as an insensitive twat (please understand I am not accusing you of being an insensitive twat, because I can see that your emotional connection to Apple is somewhat screwing with your head at the moment, merely that currently you appear to be one).

Reread my posts. Reread the article (barely mentions apple and points out clearly that Foxconn manufactures across a large range of Brands). Understand that Apple's prominence in this controversy is a reflection of what they have done that is remarkable, not that what they have done that is horrendous.

Please understand that Apple's prominence can be used to change the situation. Highlighting a company like Apple is a great strategy if you care about Human rights.

It doesn't matter that its Apple, you are right about that.... its simply that Apple's profile is more useful, at the moment, than HTC or Sony etc etc, if you want to get coverage for these abuses.


hitting home that pretty much everyone reading the site is complicit in some way


....and here we get to the nub of the problem. You apple guys are just worried that we think you are the only ones using tainted technology. NO. Most people who read that story won't have even considered that there may be a division of blame along which OS you like. Apple is the profile company...the point is made more impactfully because of this. Clearly its a little fly in the ointment of "Apple is beyond reproach for anything", but hey thats just called the real world. Try living in it.
posted by Boslowski at 3:40 AM on May 21, 2010


This Chinese report says that in the early hours of the 21st a 21-year old worker jumped to his death from a dormitory at the FoxConn plant in Shenzhen, the tenth such incident that has come to light.
posted by Abiezer at 3:43 AM on May 21, 2010


Engadget Editorial: Thoughts on Foxconn
posted by homunculus at 11:41 AM on May 21, 2010


Foxconn CEO: 'We are definitely not a sweatshop'
posted by homunculus at 9:54 AM on May 25, 2010


Latest Foxconn Death Makes 10
posted by ignignokt at 10:32 AM on May 25, 2010


Foxconn's HR website vandalised by mischievous hacker
posted by homunculus at 5:17 PM on May 25, 2010


SACOM and Hong Kong labour groups protest at Foxconn's headquarters in Hong Kong, 25 May 2010, throwing paper ghost money in a traditional act of mourning for the dead workers.
posted by Abiezer at 10:34 PM on May 25, 2010


Blog (in Chinese) created by mainland students concerned about the situation of Foxconn workers.
posted by Abiezer at 10:39 PM on May 25, 2010


11th suicide at Apple factory
posted by unliteral at 10:43 PM on May 26, 2010


Remarkably strong opinion piece posted on china.org.cn:
News that Shenzhen officials have told Foxconn workers to value their lives, and stop the rash of suicides that is jeopardizing bonuses, promotions and Steve Jobs' reputation, prompts the question just what value workers should place on their lives.

Since reform and opening up, hasn't money been the measure of all things in China? And hasn't the Shenzhen government put a precise value on the lives of workers by setting the minimum wage at 1000 yuan a month? (A complex mathematical formula yields a figure high enough to prevent mass disorder but low enough to stop multinationals decamping to Vietnam.)

Now we clearly can't pay workers as much as senior officials, who have a responsibility to keep friends, colleagues, and investors entertained in a punishing round of restaurants, karaoke bars and massage parlors. But we need a figure that will act as a disincentive to self-termination. A government inquiry is clearly called for, and should include a study trip to other emerging economies such as South Africa (in time for the World Cup) and Brazil...
posted by Abiezer at 1:38 AM on May 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Remarkably strong opinion piece posted on china.org.cn:

Wow, I wonder how long that will stay up for.
posted by knapah at 2:31 AM on May 28, 2010


Apple rumored to begin paying Foxconn employees direct wages
posted by homunculus at 11:37 AM on May 31, 2010


Foxconn Raises Worker Pay 30%
posted by homunculus at 9:45 AM on June 2, 2010


Another Foxconn Employee Dies, After Working 34-Hours Straight
posted by homunculus at 9:47 AM on June 2, 2010


Apple boss defends conditions at iPhone factory
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:14 AM on June 2, 2010


News that Shenzhen officials have told Foxconn workers to value their lives, and stop the rash of suicides that is jeopardizing bonuses, promotions and Steve Jobs' reputation, prompts the question just what value workers should place on their lives.

That government-written article is rich, given how China treats its labor force like they are prisoners in a concentration camp.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:36 PM on June 3, 2010


It's not written by 'the government' BP, just an opinion piece published on an official news portal. The state here is not the absolute monolith it's often seen as outside the country. Wouldn't expect to see anything half so trenchant in Chinese on an official site though.
It's true that the state here fails to live up to the various pretty sounding promises that have been made to workers in a series of laws and regulations and is complicit in lax enforcement, but the worst conditions are in the private sector, not the SOEs.
posted by Abiezer at 9:44 PM on June 3, 2010


just an opinion piece published on an official news portal

I don't live in China so I'll have to defer to your general experience, but I was never aware that China was a great defender of freedom of the press.

Indeed, the NYT put out a piece on this very subject today:

In Leaked Lecture, Details of China’s News Cleanups

In a lecture he gave to a group of journalism students last month, a top official at Xinhua, the state news agency, said that the mission was not so picture-perfect. The official, Xia Lin, described how a design flaw had exposed the astronaut to excessive G-force pressure during re-entry, splitting his lip and drenching his face in blood. Startled but undaunted by Mr. Yang’s appearance, the workers quickly mopped up the blood, strapped him back in his seat and shut the door. Then, with the cameras rolling, the cabin door swung open again, revealing an unblemished moment of triumph for all the world to see.

And given how China's suicide rate is higher than Foxconn workers to begin with, basically, my first impulse is to call bullshit on anything coming out of a Chinese mouthpiece (or Metafilter, for that matter) about how Steve Jobs is now a devil of the proletariat.

Please forgive my general skepticism.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:56 PM on June 3, 2010


Well, for my own part I couldn't give a toss about Apple in particular, they're only one of many international brands involved in sourcing here. The larger issue is workers' rights and conditions. You'd be terribly mistaken to let your fondness for Apple lead you to question the idea that conditions in FoxConn plants are very poor, and if you're sceptical about that it's not something I'd forgive.
On the issue of the Chinese press, it's complex. There's tight controls as we all know, but that doesn't mean that journalists and commentators here don't do their best to work around and between those to serve some function as a public watchdog. Certainly I would think some of the focus on FoxConn has been possible because they're Taiwanese and famous for supplying a well-known brand, while a domestic company of that size would find it easier to get the stories killed. But the fact that they could grant a thirty percent pay rise in one go in itself tells you the level of extreme exploitation that goes on.
posted by Abiezer at 10:14 PM on June 3, 2010


But the fact that they could grant a thirty percent pay rise in one go in itself tells you the level of extreme exploitation that goes on.

Well, let's see the Chinese government mandate raises like that across the board — and then we can talk. Otherwise, while that's good news for Foxconn workers, there are lots of other companies that source through Foxconn for the stuff they sell each and every one of you, not to mention a number of other electronics manufacturers, many that operate in China under even worse working conditions. So singling out Apple is still axe-grindy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:20 PM on June 3, 2010


On the issue of the Chinese press, it's complex.

As for this, I don't know what to say, other than that a top official of the state news agency is telling people outside the country that the Chinese government fakes the news as a matter of general practice. I'm not sure how cleaning blood off of an astronaut's face can be nuanced, but as for the rest of it, I'd still like to see some acknowledgement of the actual statistics (as reported by the state itself).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:25 PM on June 3, 2010


It's not to do with the nuance of that particular incident, it's that it's entirely irrelevant to the quality or otherwise of the reporting on FoxConn. Just because both things happened in the Chinese media doesn't make them equivalent cases. There's a variety of studies of how and when news manipulation goes on here, and how journalists work around that to still break stories of social value within the very stringent constraints - the China Media Project is a good resource if you're interested; one of their current directors is the former editor of a Guangzhou newspaper group who was sacked for breaking stories that eventually offended the authorities - journalists do take such risks.
Again, I'm not interested in whether Apple are being singled out. It's not an important issue.
posted by Abiezer at 10:36 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not to do with the nuance of that particular incident, it's that it's entirely irrelevant to the quality or otherwise of the reporting on FoxConn.

Well, factually, I would have to disagree.

Again, I'm not interested in whether Apple are being singled out. It's not an important issue.

I totally agree, especially since Apple has only a marginal role in this issue, at best.

Getting back to the veracity of the Chinese press, what about the general suicide rate of Chinese people versus the suicide rate of Foxconn workers? What about the general working conditions of Chinese people versus that of Foxconn workers?

As far as your citation goes, I would have hoped these are not an irrelevant or complex comparisons for a Chinese government press outlet to make, even though I still admit I remain skeptical:

The authorized government portal site to China, China.org.cn is published under the auspices of the State Council Information Office and the China International Publishing Group (CIPG) in Beijing.

The State Council Information Office is described as the "chief information office of the Chinese government", for what it's worth.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:45 PM on June 3, 2010


The suicide rate in general matches that at FoxConn because in part, yes, lots of people are under the sorts of pressures that the discipline at FoxConn plants has evidently contributed too. It's a horrible line of defence to say that it's as shit as the rest of a country famous for its poor working conditions. If you look at what we know of the various cases, in most of them references are made to particular practices such as abusive management or exhaustion from overtime that contributed to a state of mind which led to the person's suicide. FoxConn is supposed to be one of the better foreign-invested (counting Taiwan as foreign) suppliers; that these tragedies can at least play some part in exposing how far from decent standards prevail in even one of the best companies should be seen as an opportunity to generate some pressure that may go some way to improving matters, not just shrugged off as 'Oh well, it's China.'
With the media and how it works here, you're labouring under a misconception about how monolithic control is and how it's applied (as reactive clampdowns after the fact in most cases, though notices of stories that shouldn't be reported are also circulated) - broadly, journalists constantly push the boundaries and get stories of value out. It would be legitimate to ask why these particular exposes of FoxConn haven't been quashed where they might be for a better-connected fully domestic enterprise, but it's a mistake to think that the substance of the reports is manufactured or wildly inaccurate.
posted by Abiezer at 10:58 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


The suicide rate in general matches that at FoxConn

No, the rate of suicide in China is higher, at least as reported.

My skepticism is obviously not about defending Foxconn management, of course, but to call doubt on the citation's motives for "reporting" (writing an opinion piece, actually) about Foxconn, particularly when the piece calls out non-Chinese interests, or antagonists of the CCP, including Taiwan.

With the media and how it works here, you're labouring under a misconception about how monolithic control is and how it's applied

Let me be absolutely clear on this point: You cited a single piece by, for lack of a better term, a government propaganda outlet. One arm of which is on record for (literally) cleaning up the "truth", as I noted.

I'll narrow my concern down even further. The writer of the opinion piece is John Sexton. Here is a quote from another piece of his on china.org.cn:

The Western media are again ramping up attacks on China over the Google hacking incident

It is pretty well established fact, by now, that the Chinese government or operatives on behalf of the state hacked into Google systems to track dissidents — human rights activists, whose activities I will assume from history are contrary to those of the ruling party. That this happened as Google and other companies described it is pretty much a given fact at this point. Framing his opinion piece this way (from the first sentence on, no less) is one piece of evidence that Sexton's writing aims to fulfill a political agenda.

To wit:

The United States tops the list of governments suspected of involvement in cyber attacks, according to a major survey of IT executives released on January 28 by US software security firm McAfee (NYSE:MFE).

Rhetorical translation: "The food is awful, and such small portions!"

Here's another demonstration:

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke today called on commentators to stop pressuring China to revalue its currency. "For God's sake shut up," said Hawke, who was Prime Minister of Australia from 1983 to 1991. "Leave it to the Chinese. I'm confident they'll make the right decision."

Sexton's piece then goes on to point out a number of America's notable and predictable foibles, including a penchant for anti-Muslim xenophobia, which would otherwise seem like an odd non sequitor for an op-ed piece about economics.

Here is one more:

Students from the Coca Cola Monitoring Group last week took their road show on the American multinational's labor law violations to Nanjing Agricultural University. The group is mounting a rolling campaign around campuses and workplaces to highlight poor working conditions at the company's plants.

I'm not calling the entirety of Chinese journalism into question, I'm calling out what I find to be tragic and massive hypocrisy by the political party behind the citation you chose.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:34 PM on June 3, 2010


The point about posting that piece was my surprise that something so strong had been published on a government portal, albeit only in English. It wasn't a citation for anything - it's clearly an opinion piece by an ex-pat hack. I'm not basing my condemnation of FoxConn on a screed by someone phoning it in as a copy editor cum columnist for a state media outlet, it's clearly a bit of sarcastic invective, not a report. The section I quoted attacks Shenzhen government officials and the reform process - that's what's interesting. You've missed the wood for the trees here.
posted by Abiezer at 11:52 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Foxconn Workers in China Say ‘Meaningless’ Life Sparks Suicides
posted by homunculus at 1:57 PM on June 4, 2010


In other news: China Blocks Foursquare; Too Many People Checking Into Tian’anmen
posted by homunculus at 2:04 PM on June 4, 2010


You've missed the wood for the trees here.

Blinded by his love of apple. He is still vainly trying to justify Apple's involvement in the stink that is Foxconn. Sadly you are dealing with a faith issue here, no matter what logic is presented there will be a prevailing override.
posted by Boslowski at 2:40 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


no matter what logic is presented there will be a prevailing override

That's quite true. I have provided a strong, fact-based case that your repeated axe grinding points out how you don't really care about worker's rights, and that your response to insult only reinforces the general weakness of your position.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:46 AM on June 5, 2010


Don't be cute, BP; you're constantly (rightly or wrongly, no matter) defending Apple whenever it comes up on the blue. It's cool for you to make your case, but to pretend you're a disinterested reader is extremely specious.
posted by smoke at 7:58 AM on June 5, 2010


I don't claim to be impartial, but at least I have facts on my side and I'm not resorting to insults to make my case.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:28 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


In more cheerful news, workers at Honda's transmission plant in Foshan, Guangdong are going back to work having won their wildcat strike of the past few weeks - big wage rises all round and a condemnation of abusive and violent management similar to that seen at FoxConn. Here's an open letter from the strike committee which also condemns the actions of the (sol legal) official union which as usual sided with management. This victory could be a major step forward towards restoring the right to strike.
posted by Abiezer at 3:50 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


"sole legal" that should be.
posted by Abiezer at 3:51 PM on June 5, 2010


Foxconn to Double China Factory-Worker Salaries After Suicides
posted by homunculus at 1:32 PM on June 6, 2010


Foxconn to Double China Factory-Worker Salaries After Suicides

Even though this is clearly a positive step, it just makes me feel sick. The fact they've doubled their salaries just shows that they could have absorbed this cost all along and all of these deaths were unnecessary.

Fuck the profit-motive.
posted by knapah at 4:57 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


The fact they've doubled their salaries just shows that they could have absorbed this cost all along and all of these deaths were unnecessary.
Other news today in a similar vein is that they're announcing, among other measures, that workers will get at least one full day off a week - again, should be seen as an embarrassing admission that they must have previously been breaking the law if this is a concession.
posted by Abiezer at 7:40 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not resorting to insults to make my case

I resorted to insults because I found your insistence in turning a thread about abuse into the latest round of the fanboi wars extremely offensive.

I still do. I can't believe that you still can't put the bone down and have now gone so far as to try and show that the factory in question was OK all along.

Guess what, IT WASN'T OK. YOU WERE WRONG.

The fact that we have now seen changes in pay and conditions directly after the 'Apple' oriented coverage of Foxconn's problems should pretty much prove this to you. It should demonstrate that the value in highlighting Apple was NOTHING to do with axe grinding and all about pushing for solutions.

I know it won't prove that to you, but there we go. It took me years to stop arguing with creationists too.

Sorry for shouting but reason seems to be failing in this thread and I'm getting old :)
posted by Boslowski at 8:12 AM on June 7, 2010


Boslowski: I didn't realize there were free-trade computers out there that were not made in similar conditions. At which lovely boutique did you buy your free-trade computer that you composed your little tirade at? I'm sure there's a lot of MeFites who would love to know.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:28 AM on June 7, 2010


entropicamericana, I once did that smug thing of going "oh yeah, well why don't you live up to your high minded principles!" here on Metafilter and ended up getting a response along the lines of "actually, I use a solar powered second hand mobile phone, only use public transport or cycle, eat only locally grown vegetables, and am a veritable oasis of anti-consumerism in this horrific capitalist desert of a growth economy" type of response.

It annoyed me. (Damn you, Lutoslawski, for living a pretty ethical life!)

It also made me reassess the way I was engaging with that thread.

So let's assume that he hand built his computer with materials mined from his own backyard in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner and that he runs it on electricity generated by a wind turbine he built from dismantled guns.

That way we don't have to imply that his opinion on the working conditions of factory workers in China is worth any less because he is advocating for their benefit using a product of their exploited labour.
posted by knapah at 1:21 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Crunching the suicide statistics at Foxconn
One common theme in much of the reaction to the spate of suicides at Foxconn's Longhua plant is that the rate of suicide is lower than the national average rate for China...

...But it seems to me that comparing a narrow demographic (factory workers aged 18-25) with the overall Chinese population is misleading.

The Chinese suicide rate is dramatically swelled, for example, by deaths among women in the countryside, who represent half of all cases each year. Their suffering does not seem to have much in common with the plight of an urban youth.

Unhelpfully, there do not appear to be any statistics for suicide rates among young people. The closest analogue we could find was a statement by Liu Huashan, a well-respected professor of psychology at China Central Normal university, that the rate of suicide among university students is between 2-4 per 100,000 per year.

Again, however, it is problematic to compare unhappy migrant workers with university students, even if they are roughly the same age, since their relative aspirations and opportunities in life are radically different.

One reasonable statistic to look at is how quickly the suicides have spiked at Foxconn. If you choose to look at the statistics another way, six people have killed themselves in May at Longhua. Extrapolate that rate of suicide and you get 24 suicides per 100,000 per year...
Sad that this argument even had to be set out in any detail; should have been obvious to any but a tendentious moral bankrupt.
posted by Abiezer at 2:04 AM on June 8, 2010


entropicamericana.

I never claimed any high minded principles. Never claimed to be particularly active in human rights issues etc etc etc .... I see no reason why I have to be picture perfect in order to comment on this situation or express my opinion that the reaction "hey its not just apple" is offensive. It is offensive.

When that has been pointed out to BP, and now you, and you STILL come back with a viewpoint that is trying to protect your pathetic emotional connection to a corporation (pathetic in that you will defend what is going on at Foxconn in order to feel comfortable about your favourite OS - maybe not you, but definately BP)... thats the point I feel i'm talking to creationists.

And in exactly the same way that it took me years to stop bothering with those creationists it will probably take me years to overlook you lot too.

What is most galling is that for the most part the people that defend apple aren't stupid, at all, except in one small area where paranoia and blindness dominate. So let me make this clear.....

If apple dominate the world I will be truly ok with that. They make nice computers. I don't hate apple. I don't think their products are inferior. They aren't my favourite technology company but i can sleep at night at the thought of their dominance....it is so far from important when you compare it to the kinds of things this thread should have been about (which by the way also does not stop me sleeping at night).
posted by Boslowski at 2:13 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


After Suicides, Scrutiny of China’s Grim Factories

As China’s Wages Rise, Export Prices Could Follow
posted by homunculus at 8:51 AM on June 8, 2010


Sad that this argument even had to be set out in any detail; should have been obvious to any but a tendentious moral bankrupt.

Comments like these are why I am so fucking disgusted with MetaFilter of late. I said repeatedly that I'm glad Foxconn workers are being treated better and still you lot harp on about Apple. Get over yourselves.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:41 PM on June 8, 2010


Who said anything about you or Apple? My point was the general case, that the ghoulish numbers game had been played in the public debate. Get over yourself.
posted by Abiezer at 6:49 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Foxconn to end suicide payments to families: Change made to discourage more suicides, China’s news agency reports
posted by homunculus at 7:40 PM on June 8, 2010


In more cheerful news, workers at Honda's transmission plant in Foshan, Guangdong are going back to work having won their wildcat strike of the past few weeks

Perhaps not so cheerful after all: Honda Replaces Strikers in China
posted by homunculus at 11:32 AM on June 13, 2010


Saw that homunculus - it's a different plant where the work is less skilled so it was easy to bring scabs in, it seems.
posted by Abiezer at 2:54 AM on June 14, 2010


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