As the Fair Labor Association inspectors interview Foxconn employees about working conditions at iPad plants, early reports coming our way are a bit ambiguous and a tad confusing. First FLA president told Reuters that plant floors are spotless, then Bloomberg published an article claiming the organization found “tons of issues,” and finally those two video teasers (here and here) from ABC Nightline’s ‘iFactory’ documentary added ambiguity as the producers apparently “didn’t find any egregious violations.”
Knowing ABC’s parent company Disney has the Steve Jobs Trust as its largest shareholder, and considering that FLA is funded by the biggest players in the industry, including Apple who commissioned the Foxconn inspection that began last week, some watchers are speculating there must be more to this than meets the eye. Read on…
According to AI, Foxconn hid underage workers before FLA inspectors arrived for audits. Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior project officer Debby Sze Wan Chan told the publication that “All underage workers, between 16-17 years old, were not assigned any overtime work and some of them were even sent to other departments.” Foxconn is putting on a show, Chan added:
Most of the time, the workers are aware of the presence of Apple’s representatives inside the factories. It is not the problem that Apple doesn’t know the real problems at their suppliers. They know, but it is only because they do not care.
Chan attempted to deliver reports, documentaries and petition cards personally to Apple’s Cupertino, Calif.-headquarters, but she was shown the door as “a security guard tried to disperse us and he promised that he would hand the materials to someone in charge, but I haven’t heard from them since then.”
For example, another worker told Chan her employee approved three breaks a day during the inspections versus just one a day before the FLA audits. Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct only approves of underage workers if they are legally allowed to work, and in China this means 16-year-olds. The whole Foxconn mess, as you will recall, actually erupted after big media piggy-backed on an episode of the popular radio program This American Life that adapted Mike Daisey’s highly acclaimed monologue “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.”
Daisey’s show was the first to expose the controversial working conditions at Foxconn’s Shenzhen, China factory in a big way, creating a major public relations problem for Apple, which in years past was facing constant accusations of questionable labor practices in Chinese sweatshops. If you are eager to learn more about Daisey’s monologue that started it all, you can now download a PDF transcript of the entire episode free. Furthermore, Daisey released the transcript under an open license so that anyone and anywhere may perform it.
In related news, according to BGR, a couple of workers are claiming they were poisoned by toxins in a Suzhou, China factory while assembling iPhone touchscreens, and they wrote a letter pleading consumers to demand reform. SumOfUs released the letter in an email this afternoon as part of an Ethical iPhone Campaign petition. Former factory workers Guo Rui-qiang and Jia Jing-chuan begged consumers to sign SumOfUs’s petition. They want Apple’s manufacturing/supply partners to improve conditions at Chinese factories to prevent future injuries:
“It has been over two years since many of us were hospitalized and treated but our debilitating symptoms continue. Rui-Qiang still can’t find work because he can no longer stand for the long hours most jobs require. Jing-Chuan has to spend nearly $100 a month on health supplements. But with all of us working together to pressure Apple to change, we can make sure what happened to us doesn’t happen to others too.”
- FLA president: iPad plants are no sweatshops, boredom and monotony contributing to suicides (9to5mac.com)
- Group plans disruptive protest tomorrow at Apple’s Grand Central Store over Foxconn conditions (9to5mac.com)
- Bloomberg: FLA is finding ‘tons of issues’ at Apple supplier plants (9to5mac.com)
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