Foxconn, the massive Taiwan-based manufacturing plant that employs hundreds of thousands of workers around the world and churns out tens of millions of iPhones and iPads annually, continues to be something of a p.r. debacle for Apple. A few weeks ago, Jon Stewart called the company’s plant in Shenzen, China, which has become infamous for worker suicides, “an abomination.”
This weekend CNN ran a report on Foxconn, in which reporter Stan Grant talks to a female Chinese worker, face blurred for the camera, who says she has never seen an intact iPad despite spending more than 60 hours a week working on them. The woman works, eats, and sleeps at the factory, and said she would be fired if caught speaking to the media. One memorable quote: “They use women as men, and men as animals.”
Just one worker speaking, of course, but her account adds to the multitude of reports about oppressive working conditions at the factory complex. In January, Apple responded to the complaints by announcing it would become a Participating Company in the Fair Labor Association (pdf), a watchdog group that “places the onus on companies to voluntarily achieve the FLA’s labor standards in the factories manufacturing their products.” As part of that affiliation, Apple will be “submitting to audits and enforcing a code of conduct based on standards approved by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization,” according to Bloomberg.
Whether the negative p.r. stemming from Apple’s relationship with Foxconn will ever separate Apple fanatics from the latest iWhatever is perhaps dubious. The monologist Mike Daisey, whose show about his trip to Foxconn ran at Berkeley Rep last year, may have put his finger on the maximum consequences for Apple’s brand in an interview conducted by KQED’s Cy Musiker:
“I was a very devout follower of Apple and of technology…the consequence of the trip for me is that I lost my faith. I don’t enjoy technology…in the same way (because) I know intimately what went into their creation.”