Wednesday, December 15, 2010

i-Nightmare-- Apple Rotten to the Core?

Oh damn it to hell. I hate to relay this story, because I have been a long time Apple and all "i-things" fan, but alas the story needs to be told.
The reason: The husband was thinking about getting me an i-thing gift item, but then heard this story on NPR about the suicide rate of the Chinese Apple i-pod, i-pad, i-phone mfg facility.
I came across this article, in the UK web site "DailyMail"- here are some excerpts:

Revealed: Inside the Chinese suicide sweatshop where workers toil in 34-hour shifts to make your iPod

Yet, amid all the fanfare and celebrations this week, there was one sour, niggling note: reports of a spate of suicides at a secretive Chinese complex where Jobs's iPhone, iPod and iPad - Apple's new state-of-the-art slimline computer - are built and assembled.
With 11 workers taking their lives in sinister circumstances, Jobs acted swiftly to quell a potential public relations disaster.
Stressing that he found the deaths 'troubling' and that he was 'all over it', the billionaire brushed aside suggestions that the factory was a sweatshop.

For, as Apple's leader was taking a bow on the world stage, the Mail was under cover inside this Chinese complex. And we encountered a strange, disturbing world where new recruits are drilled along military lines, ordered to stand for the company song and kept in barracks like battery hens - all for little more than £20 a week.(31.48 U.S. Dollars)
In what's been dubbed the 'i-Nightmare factory', the scandal focuses on two sprawling complexes near Shenzhen, two decades ago a small fishing port and now a city of 17 million people.
This is the epicentre of operations for Foxconn, China's biggest exporter, which makes products under licence for Apple using a 420,000-strong workforce in Shenzhen. They have 800,000 workers country-wide.
And as Jobs was speaking in San Francisco, new measures were being secretly introduced at Foxconn to prevent the suicide scandal from worsening and damaging Apple sales globally.
Astonishingly, this involves forcing all Foxconn employees to sign a new legally binding document promising that they won't kill themselves.
The document, a copy of which has been obtained by the Mail, states that all employees (or their dependants) must promise not to sue the company as the result of 'any unexpected death or injury, including suicide or self torture'.
The owner of this massive, highly controlled iPad and iPhone factory has also decided to install something he's dubbed 'ai xin wang' - which translates literally as 'nets of a loving heart'
In reality, these 'loving hearts' are 10ft high wire fences on the roofs and 15ft wide nets at the base of all buildings. The human traps are to prevent people jumping to their deaths and smashing themselves on the pavements below.
Alongside such physical impediments to suicide, hundreds of monks have been flown in to the plant to exorcise evil spirits. Shaven-headed and wearing long robes, groups of monks have been seen chanting and praying amid baffled, exhausted workers.
More than 2,000 social workers are also being recruited and emergency helplines set up. Anyone appearing mentally ill or stressed is being identified by a special 'spotters' team set up to keep tabs on the workforce.
Workers who fail to respond to the chanting monks or the entreaties of social workers are secretly shipped to Shenzhen Mental Health Centre, a private facility where there are several wards crammed with Foxconn employees.
With the complex at peak production, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week to meet the global demand for Apple phones and computers, a typical day begins with the Chinese national anthem being played over loudspeakers, with the words: 'Arise, arise, arise, millions of hearts with one mind.'
As part of this Orwellian control, the public address system constantly relays propaganda, such as how many products have been made; how a new basketball court has been built for the workers; and why workers should 'value efficiency every minute, every second'.
With other company slogans painted on workshop walls - including exhortations to 'achieve goals unless the sun no longer rises' and to 'gather all of the elite and Foxconn will get stronger and stronger' - the employees work up to 15-hour shifts.

Down narrow, prison-like corridors, they sleep in cramped rooms in triple-decked bunk beds to save space, with simple bamboo mats for mattresses.
Despite summer temperatures hitting 35 degrees, with 90 per cent humidity, there is no air-conditioning. Workers say some dormitories house more than 40 people and are infested with ants and cockroaches, with the noise and stench making it difficult to sleep.

After details of the Chinese suicides leaked out, and Jobs promised he was 'all over it', his Chinese partner announced that his workers would receive a generous-sounding 30 per cent pay rise, raising the basic wage from £90 to £120 a month.
Yet human r ights groups denounced this as a public relations sham, saying that the legal minimum wage was being raised by the Chinese authorities in any case.
Lu Bing Dong, 22, helps produce 21,000 iPhones daily in his workshop alone. 'The pay rise is actually stopping us making more money because now they are strictly controlling overtime,' he says.
'Foxconn are very smart - they say it's a pay rise, but we actually earn less. It's meaningless. They will increase the daily quotas [of products made] to make up for lost time.'
As we left the sprawling Foxconn complex, workers were putting cages on one dormitory block with balconies - yet another measure to keep workers from killing themselves.
'It looks even more like a prison now,' said a weary Lu, 27, returning from a 15-hour shift.
One can't help wondering how Steve Jobs, the billionaire Buddhist, manages to square Foxconn's activities with his belief in karma - that what you do in this life will be repaid in the next...


Life As I Know It Now said...

this is a very troubling story. I think all the stuff we buy from China is suspect. wouldn't our slave driving corporations love to do this to us here--they are no doubt working upon it!

Fran said...

It breaks my heart & everyone who reads it has used the word "slavery" in response.

As long as people keep lining up & camping out all night to be the first to own the next Apple, Dell & HP products (Apple seems to have the biggest cult & wait in line for the next best i-thing)... they will keep using these most offensive manufacturing slaves- because it is all about profit.

How did they keep it such a well hidden secret??

Anonymous said...

As Thomm Hartman says:
slavery is still being used in the U.S. as much as before the Civil War -
the difference is that now we don't have to see the eyes of our slaves.

Sad situation.

nonnie9999 said...

how much money did steve jobs make this year? these execs really don't give a shit about their workers, but they wouldn't have gotten stinkin' rich without the sweat of all their employees. that's gratitude for ya, huh?

Fran said...

That is the thing-- they are making money hand over fist.
We bought our son a replacement electric cord for his 5 year old Apple laptop, as his was frayed....
$79 bucks.

Are you effing kidding me?

They must have a 900% profit margin.

To hear the solution is to put nets up to catch the people jumping to hope to die instead of work there.

I'd like to put steel mesh up in front of the damned Mac store.

We'll buy your products when you quit abusing workers.

Lulu Maude said...

Hideous. I'd read about this some time ago, I think in the NY Times.

Show me a billionaire, and I'll show you somebody who has made it on the backs of the poor and disenfranchised.

Fran said...

I received an e mil from Apple telling me there is still time to get an i-pad engraved with a personal
touch. So I called their 800 number. The call went like this:

"Hi! I'm an automated system that can handle full sentences. What are you calling about today sales, service or customer support?"

Me: Customer service

Robot: I'll get you to a representative, gives me a number of choices- I choose "sales" because they are always quicker about taking more money.

The clerk answered "it's a beautiful day at Apple"

Me: Not for the Chinese workers at the sweatshop in China.

Clerk: I have no idea what you are referring to .

Me: NPR ran a story about the high suicide rate at the mfg site in China.

Clerk: Says it is probably blocked on my internet connection.
Oh! I see info about Foxconn.

Me: I'm just calling to say we've been Apple Customers for over 20 years, but we can;t buy your products if the company is involved in 21st century slavery & human rights violations.

Clerk: Maam I just work at a call center subcontracted by Apple, so I don't even have a way to send such a message.
She makes some comment that she too is appalled.

I called back & talked to a person in the service department, who forwarded me to the Customer Service rep.

She too was appalled.
She offered to forward this message to people who read the messages, I told her I do not want
a prefabricated/automated message.

I said we would not be buying Apple products until they stop engaging in 21st century slavery & human rights violations.

Someone at Apple will get back to me......

libhom said...

We need to make retail chains sell at least 50% US merchandise. That would clean up a lot of the worst abuses.

Fran said...

That & a huge boycott of all companies using this kind of inhumane/slave labor.

Who knew Apple was rotten to the core???

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

Hi, McWheeler here.

I've been successfully predicting business ouncomes for 30yrs.

Here's my current observation.

The reason why no on is doing anything about unemployment in the US is that they are following what Naomi Klein calls a "Disaster Capitalism" model.

In a rescent speach by the Chineese Ambasordor to the US, the official stated that China no longer wants to make all the petty, useless crap that the US wants. Rather, they want to move to high-tech like Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia.

Get it? China no longer want to have low-wage, polluting industry...and the US is desperately in need of manufacturing jobs, isn't it?

They've force the US workers into a position where they'll work for "a nickel and a nail"

The upside for business is that, for the most part, the infracstucture for manufacturing is still is place, languishing.

Slavery, of the Chineese kind, is coming to a town near you, Mr & Mrs America.

Anonymous said...

Gonna be the devil's advocate here... but 11 suicides out of 475,000 workers is better than the suicide rate in the USA of almost 17 deaths per 100,000 people. In the meantime, the suicide rate in China is almost as high as for the battle-weary US Marines (20). These are all figures for men, by the way, because from what I understood, the Foxconn victims were mostly mrn. Overall the suicide rate in China is about 7 per 100,000. That means we should expect about 30 Foxconn deaths per year in Shenzhen.

You can always make a story by looking at the suicide rate for men and ignore the fact that it's a men's issue above everything else. Having read interviews with other Foxconn workers, they are there living in those dorms and working hard because they are relatively high wages with virtually no living expenses. They can quit after a couple years and use their savings to start families, buy homes, or start a business. What we have to really consider is why men put themselves through this not just in China, but all over the world.

What they have had is a dozen suicides in just over a month, though, which if that held up for a year would be well over 100 deaths. But that can still be purely by chance. Suicide is rarely a randomly distributed event. For example, soldiers are most likely to kill themselves a few days after they arrive in a war zone and within a few weeks of returning home afterwards. So a factory could have 12 deaths within a month and then one or two deaths every other month for the rest of the year and that would be quite normal.

Anonymous said...


As far as the "propaganda" at Foxconn, I'd like to know how that is any different from any US corporation. There are cultural differences of what people respond to that makes the wording slightly different, sure, but I get a six figure salary for one of the best companies to work for in America and we still get told to think of the best interests of the company in everything we do. And when I was in the military and we had a spate of suicides in Iraq, they baffled equally as much by sending in a bunch of chaplains to give mandatory talks to us about their (spiritual mumbo jumbo) reasons to live. It turned suicide into some sort of a joke straight out of Joseph Heller's Catch-22. And what about the safety nets? You mean like the ones under the Golden Gate bridge or the suicide prevention fence on the roof of the high school I went to? I guess it's all just so terrible because it's Communist China and Evil Corporations.

I just wish people would look at suicide as a men's issue and treat it with seriousness instead of using it to score ideological points.