Foxconn's CEO at a news conference to address suicides at plant, 2010
Apple, despite its innovative greatness, has a reputation for secrecy. “How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work” (The New York Times, January 22) puts some of its secrets, perhaps dirty ones, out in the open. In addition to low costs (to Apple), “the speed and flexibility (of Chinese labor) is breathtaking,” says one former executive reported in the article. Little can America match, of course! The piece describes the military-style production and deployment of workers at the largest plant of Foxconn, Apple’s contract manufacturer in China. In that single gigantic complex, where some 230,000 labor, workers are treated like soldiers: eating in centralized canteens and many sleeping in barracks, they are also well color-clothed, monitored and disciplined (thanks to all the technology). When needed, they would be woken up in the dead of the night to work in the plant, as in the reported 2007 vignette to assemble the phones urgently demanded by legendary Jobs.
Even more revealing of the impact of Apple’s style (if we may) of production, and which the article has failed to point out, is a fairly well-known serial tragedy that shocked the world in 2010 at the same Foxconn plant, where a total of 14 young workers jumped off the balcony of the dorms in the first half of that year, to the deaths of 12.
Link to the NYT article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/business/apple-america-and-a-squeezed-middle-class.html?_r=2&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y
Read more Kam Wing Chan’s commentaries, at http://faculty.washington.edu/kwchan/