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Businesses Iphone Apple

Ninth Suicide At iPhone Factory 539

Posted by Soulskill
from the need-a-union-app dept.
shar303 writes "A ninth employee has jumped to his death at Taiwanese iPhone and iPad manufacturer Foxconn, China's state media reports. The 21-year-old worker was the eighth fatality this year. This raises questions as to whether the shiny finish of the latest gadgets available from mega corporations are tarnished by such information, and whether the mistreatment of workers deserves to be highlighted when considering such firms."
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Ninth Suicide At iPhone Factory

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  • Causality (Score:2, Insightful)

    by qoncept (599709) on Friday May 21, 2010 @04:46PM (#32298636) Homepage

    whether the mistreatment of workers deserves to be highlighted when considering such firms.

    Workers killing themselves as proof their employer mistreats them? Seems just a tad presumptuous. Likely? Sure. Matter of fact? Of course not.

  • Re:Apple. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2010 @04:47PM (#32298640)

    It's not unique to Apple; this is capitalism itself in action.

  • by jra (5600) on Friday May 21, 2010 @04:49PM (#32298676)

    noting that this factory's staff is over 400k employees -- or roughly the size of Cleveland -- and that this is not really news, and I tend to agree.

  • Re:Apple. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by falzer (224563) on Friday May 21, 2010 @04:51PM (#32298720)

    Blood will have gone into my next phone. I will purchase it humbly.

  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Friday May 21, 2010 @04:53PM (#32298770) Homepage

    Maybe one day the workers in China will get together and form a national union to ensure workers' rights. Maybe through their collective efforts they could make a workers' paradise. Heck, maybe they could turn the entire country into some sort of commune where everyone has to do their fair share and they all benefit from the profits.

    I wonder if that could ever work. It's amazing that no people have ever tried it.

  • by getNewNickName (980625) on Friday May 21, 2010 @04:57PM (#32298850)

    Maybe one day the workers in China will get together and form a national union to ensure workers' rights. Maybe through their collective efforts they could make a workers' paradise.

    And watch all the manufacturing jobs leave the country to the next country willing to exploit their citizens. Isn't that what globalization is all about?

  • Re:Apple. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday May 21, 2010 @04:58PM (#32298856) Homepage Journal

    I am no Apple fan boy but you are not being fair.
    This is Foxconn and not Apple. If Apple offered to pay more for the product what makes you think that Foxconn would pass that on to the workers or improve the workers conditions?
    Also from the wikipedia.
    "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"
    Apple is no more to blame than Nintendo, Sony, HP, Dell, Motorola, Amazon, and Cisco.

    Why the heck don't we just make more stuff in the US. I mean really! At one time Apple made computers in the US as did other companies.
    Or at least make them in countries that care a little about their employees?

    If you are going to fire off blame put it first on China. China needs to put in labor laws to protect it's own people. Second lay the blame on Foxconn for exploiting those people. Then put the blame on all the companies listed.
    Finally lets all take a little blame for not caring where we get our toys from.
    I am glad to say that when I went shopping for a lawn mower I worked hard to find one that was not made in China. It was made in Canada.

  • by dward90 (1813520) on Friday May 21, 2010 @04:58PM (#32298872)
    Please mod up. This was extremely informative, thank you for the link. If it wasn't on /. it should have been.
  • Re:Apple. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:02PM (#32298932) Journal
    The alternative to capitalism is subsistence farming for everyone, with all the misery and environmental destructiveness that comes with it. Or you could go with communism, which by necessity is state organized oppression of those who disagree with how things are done.

    The sad fact is that life is naturally miserable. Solving that problem is not easy, and the answer isn't to dumbly blame capitalism when the problem is really so much bigger.
  • by jeko (179919) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:03PM (#32298952)

    ...then that only makes the article even more damning, because Apple does not come off well in this report. The article also provides a terrifying glimpse of your future if you work for a living.

  • Re:Apple. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:04PM (#32298966)

    becuase in the US you have to pay a dropout flunky tens of thousands a year EACH, our lifestyles have put us on the downslide

    remember that the next time you see someone making 50 grand a year for making a spreadsheet and filing paperwork

  • Re:Apple. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eln (21727) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:05PM (#32298970) Homepage
    This is unregulated capitalism in action. China is like the US or Britain during the height of the Industrial Revolution. Demand for manufactured product from China has skyrocketed over the past couple of decades, and the Chinese have a seemingly unending supply of unskilled labor to do the work. Companies can work employees to death with no particular worries, since there are lots of people to replace those workers with and the government doesn't seem to care. Many of the worst abuses of 19th century Western labor are present today in China.

    Hopefully someday the Chinese government will enact (and enforce!) the kind of health and safety regulations that put an end to this sort of thing in the Western world (for the most part), but it will take sustained pressure both from inside and outside the country to get it done. Unfortunately, the Chinese government ruthlessly puts down dissent internally, and the external forces with the power to stop it are too busy counting their profits to care about it. Consumer pressure could play a big role in forcing change, but most people seem too enamored with their cheap Chinese-made crap to care about the people who make it.

    I'm not sure what the solution is, but until the Chinese government can be persuaded to regulate its industries we'll continue to see stories of this nature (the ones that aren't suppressed, anyway).
  • by tlambert (566799) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:09PM (#32299042)

    Restrict access to the roof? Just saying... if you can't get access to get out of the building up high, you have a hard time jumping from the window you can't get out or from the roof you can't get to.

    -- Terry

  • Re:Apple. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blair1q (305137) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:12PM (#32299096) Journal

    The alternative to capitalism is subsistence farming for everyone,

    Um, no.

    You're confusing industrialism and capitalism.

    Or you could go with communism, which by necessity is state organized oppression of those who disagree with how things are done.

    Um, no.

    You're confusing communism and totalitarianism.

  • Re:Apple. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eln (21727) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:13PM (#32299110) Homepage
    Holy false dichotomy, Batman! The choice is not, nor has it ever been, between pure unregulated capitalism and Soviet-style communism. What China has now is basically a political oligarchy that controls the people with an iron fist while allowing corporations to practice almost completely unrestricted capitalism.

    The Gilded Age, in which a small group of elites grew enormously rich and powerful on the backs of people who remained incredibly poor, and the multiple market crashes and panics that happened in the 19th and early 20th centuries, taught us that unrestrained capitalism is not a sustainable economic model. Since then, we've struggled to find the right level of regulation that will encourage stability and maintain a robust middle class while enabling growth. Different people have different theories on how much and what type regulation is the most effective, but the idea that unrestrained capitalism is the way to go takes an almost willful ignorance of history.
  • Re:Apple. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Winckle (870180) <mark@NOSpAm.winckle.co.uk> on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:16PM (#32299136) Homepage

    Have you ever seen films like Roger & Me?

    There were Americans who were proud to work those kinds of jobs, proud to say they worked in such a factory.

  • by stephentyrone (664894) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:17PM (#32299170)

    The factory in question supposedly employs 400,000 workers. The annual suicide rate in China (as reported by the WHO) is 16.7 per 100,000 people. That means that in a population of randomly selected Chinese the size of the factory workforce, we should expect to see 400000 people * 16.7 suicides/(100000 people * 1 year) * 5 months / 12 months = 27.8 suicides so far this year.

    Can we conclude that assembling shiny gadgets makes it less likely that one will commit suicide? It meets the standards for publication...

  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:20PM (#32299216)

    Foxconn has over 400,000 employees. The suicide rate in China was ~13 out of 100,000. So that means Foxconn has a suicide rate (if the year continues on this pace) that is less than half of the country average.

    Suicide rate in the USA was 12.3 out of 100,000 in 2006; total of about 33,000 suicides; that's the latest numbers. It's amazing with Apple; first we were told that an iPhone costs $2000 (because obviously we have to add all the phone contracts to the purchase price; strange that nobody did that with any other phone), then it is the amazing exploding iPods (which, strange enough, were all damaged from the outside), now it is all the suicide at Foxconn, which are obviously Apple's fault, even though Foxconn produces for all the computer manufacturers, and the suicide rate is actually far below both Chinese and US average.

  • by eulernet (1132389) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:26PM (#32299290)

    The counted suicides are the ones at the factory.

    Suicides at home are not taken into account in these statistics.

    In our western countries, suicides during work are really rare, and it's also rare to die because of an accident at work, compared to China.

    And what about your sick way of counting deads ?
    Any life is precious, but of course, the value of their lives is less important than the money they can provide us.

  • Re:Apple. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:32PM (#32299366) Homepage

    A command economy requires a commander. It is fair to relate communism and totalitarianism.

  • by Pincus (744497) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:38PM (#32299426)
    Adult suicide rate? Employed adult suicide rate?
  • Re:Apple. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by catmistake (814204) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:40PM (#32299450) Journal

    It seems to be worse on Apple's factories. See these videos [engadget.com].

    I did. I RTFA too. You might want to do that. The videos are in chinese, and the images are disturbing, but if you read the article, it's starts to make sense. And what you just said is apparently completely made up by you. From TFA you linked to:

    This super factory that holds some 400,000 people isn't the "sweatshop" that most would imagine. It provides accommodation that reaches the scale of a medium-sized town, all smooth and orderly. Compared to others, the facilities here are well-equipped and superior, with employee treatment meeting standard specifications. Thousands of people flock here each day just to find a place of their own, to find a dream that they'll probably never realize.

    This isn't a factory's inside story, but the fate of a generation of workers.

    This isn't the norm. Sounds to me like Apple must have done something already, lit a fire under Foxconn's ass, because the job, besides being low pay, isn't at all bad. What I'm reading from the article is that the social culture is being blamed for these suicides, not Foxconn's treatment of their workers under Apple's direction, as much as you'd like to believe that.

  • Re:Apple. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:47PM (#32299552) Journal

    Apple is just doing the bidding of their customers, nothing more.

    That's not exactly true. The entire concept of marketing is to shape what your customers want. Apple markets its products so that people do what Apple wants (become its customers).

    But that doesn't really make a difference.

    You can't say that a hired assassin has no culpability because he is just doing what his customer wants. Apple must also take responsibility for its actions, whatever they may be.

  • Re:Apple. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Miseph (979059) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:49PM (#32299580) Journal

    Not really, no. Would you like to point out such a period?

    There is a much greater correlation between poor governance and economic ruin than there is between any single economic policy and economic ruin.

    If anything, what we have learned is that extreme capitalism and communism both have the same problem: they would work only if people did not behave the way they do. In light of that, neither system is a good idea, which leaves us with needing to find something in the middle. The problem we're having right now is that people are so shy of communism that they've relabeled ANYTHING other than unrestricted capitalism as extreme, and we're tilting heavily in the other way. It is unsustainable, and if people don't figure out the real issue soon enough (that the wealthiest people in our society are often the least productive, and that the occupations currently given the highest rewards are ones which explicitly do not create anything of actual value, just bigger numbers after the dollar sign) what has happened so far will look like a drop in the bucket. Real financial reform would bring back into balance the financial reward of shuffling numbers on paper with the value of producing actual things of real value... I am unaware of any current effort in any body of any government to do so, so at least for now I'd say to expect more of the same.

  • Re:Apple. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:56PM (#32299680) Journal
    Subsistence farming is not really sustainable. At the scale required to sustain the earth's current population, it WOULD be more environmentally destructive. We could kill a lot of people, but that is a different problem.
  • Re:Apple. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RJBeery (956252) <rjbeery@gma i l . com> on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:04PM (#32299776)

    the multiple market crashes and panics that happened in the 19th and early 20th centuries, taught us that unrestrained capitalism is not a sustainable economic model.

    Bullshit. What you're implying is that the natural economic business cycles are able to be avoided if we can just tweak the formula. I find it interesting that you blame "unrestrained capitalism" rather than "pure Socialism" on the market crashes. You realize Socialist countries experience these crashes as well, right?

  • Re:Apple. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blackraven14250 (902843) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:04PM (#32299778)
    Unions push for the laws that protect workers. Without a unified voice, the workers will be drowned out by the big voice that is the corporation.
  • Re:Apple. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by beelsebob (529313) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:10PM (#32299858)

    Could you be any more fanboyish and defensive? The videos come from a Chinese news source, and they don't give a frak about Apple, HP, or anything else. They are reporting about a Suicidal factory and don't mention any brand names at all. Not even once.

    Right, it was the AC that attached the brand name to it, because it has more impact if it's Apple. This same factory makes electronics for Apple, Microsoft, LG, Sony, ........

  • Re:Apple. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dangitman (862676) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:11PM (#32299882)

    Could you be any more fanboyish and defensive? The videos come from a Chinese news source, and they don't give a frak about Apple, HP, or anything else. They are reporting about a Suicidal factory and don't mention any brand names at all.

    And of course, Foxconn only makes products for Apple, and nobody but Apple, right?

  • by jeko (179919) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:17PM (#32299974)

    This seems to be a case where Western mores are being applied to the Chinese. Media here in the US and the West continually attempt to reinforce their guilty feelings...

    Human rights are universal. My wife's Asian. She was endowed by her Creator with the same rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness that I was. My children, bearing epicanthic folds around their eyes, do not somehow possess fewer natural rights than I do.

    Many of those who are working in those factories got lucky: they would be working just as hard or harder farming their own land for next to nothing.

    Nope, sorry, try again. My grandparents were hillbilly subsistence farmers. Give a man a plot of land and the right to keep what he grows and he'll prosper. It's sharecroppers, constantly robbed of their harvest, who suffer. Read the histories of industrialization, particularly that of Britain and India. When factories and their need for labor enter the picture, government policies are soon implemented to drive farmers off their land.

    I have loved ones in Asia. I'm offended at the suggestion that they should be grateful for simply being allowed to survive.

  • by MasaMuneCyrus (779918) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:19PM (#32299998)

    The Foxconn plant issues are typical of plants in China, where the employees make dollars a day and work 80 hour weeks and the owner makes millions and drives a Mercedes-Benz.

    This is not capitalism in action. This is greed in action.

    A local Honda supplier plant here in Central Indiana that makes engines for North American Honda Civics and where the president of said plant makes less than 5x the amount of the workers is capitalism in action. Indiana automotive workers are part of capitalism in action and are not treated in the same manner as Chinese workers. Honda engines could be made in China for significantly less, but they aren't, and that is also capitalism in action.

  • Re:Apple. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stardaemon (834177) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:46PM (#32300298)
    You won't really be able to put any of the money in the bank. You would get what you'd need to survive. You wouldn't get welfare if you have any savings anyway. So you'd sit and watch TV or internet? You think you could afford cable? Tip: try the library, it's free and it's probably got internet. You wouldn't have much choice when it comes to housing either. It's actually not that big a problem, simply because such an existence isn't much of a life. You'll survive, potentially in reasonable health, but not much more.
  • Re:Apple. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cyphercell (843398) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:25PM (#32300686) Homepage Journal

    Damn, I haven't even watched the videos, but... A ten minute break every hour - lost privilege (how much?), 36 hour work week, paycheck shallow enough to *beg* for overtime, if it wasn't for the 5% percent attrition rate I'd guess this was fast food. Anyways, working PC support I was considering leaving and going INTO fast food just last week, as a manager I'd make the same and nobody ever comes into McDonald's asking for a flying cheeseburger and throws a goddamn fit over it. They throw fits, but they don't ask for flying fucking cheeseburgers.

    Yeah, you should try 6 days, 12 hours, labor in warehousing or 40hrs at a legitimate old hillbilly saw mill.

    8 out of 400,000 = .00002%

    I don't know if that's high or not and I don't mean to be insensitive, but maybe they should have quit. I dunno.

  • Re:Apple. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arose (644256) on Friday May 21, 2010 @07:46PM (#32300904)

    My point is that capitalistic factories, like those in the US, don't have nearly these kinds of suicide rates.

    You might want to look into US history to see how the factories used to be. They were, and are, capitalistic, the conditions however have changed, mainly due to worker organization and government regulations.

    Read about the Stalin years to learn more about communistic factories and farms.

    I'm well aware of Stalin's atrocities and the problems with the Soviet Union. The factories and farms were owned by the an authoritarian state, certainly not by the workers.

    Either way the factories in China are capitalistic, not state or worker owned. It's not about who owns the factory, but how it's run.

  • Re:Apple. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday May 21, 2010 @08:11PM (#32301144) Journal
    I talk to 'ordinary people' all the time. What opinion do you want them to have? That Obama is not an American? I can find some 'ordinary people' who feel that way. Sure, there are some people who want to work on an assembly line, just like there are some people who run off into the woods for years to get away from it all. Doesn't mean it's representative of the population.

    Michael Moore has an agenda, so he will show you what he wants you to see. If you want a clearer picture, you have to go elsewhere.
  • by jcr (53032) <[jcr] [at] [mac.com]> on Friday May 21, 2010 @10:02PM (#32301818) Journal

    > education needs a whole hell of a lot more money;

    Nope. We spend more than Germany or Japan, and we don't get what we pay for. Adding funding to a broken system doesn't fix the system.

    -jcr

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Friday May 21, 2010 @10:20PM (#32301932)

    Maybe Apple is not worse than other manufacturers, but why is the US condoning these sweatshops?

    Why does the US not insist on more humane conditions? Why is China a "most favored" nation?

    Why does the US not forbid US companies from using labor in countries that do not meet humane conditions?

  • Re:Apple. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @12:54AM (#32302672)

    They are only able to operate in such a way because they have the necessary trappings of government - things like defense - taken care of for them.

    It only really works if you can do it in isolation, which is why communes tend to be out in the middle of nowhere. It also only works in small enough numbers that pure democracy works, and even then they invariably have natural leaders - like the pastor and deacons of the Amish church.

    Pure Communism is pretty much impossible.

  • by jcr (53032) <[jcr] [at] [mac.com]> on Saturday May 22, 2010 @01:11AM (#32302788) Journal

    More per child. Mostly, it gets wasted on bureaucrats who never see the inside of a classroom.

    -jcr

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