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Businesses China Apple

Fair Labor Association Finds Foxconn Factory "First Class," Says Labor Watchdog 219

Posted by timothy
from the versus-what-is-the-right-question dept.
Richard.Tao writes "The Fair Labor Association found that Apple's plant where iPhones and iPads are far better than those at garment factories or other facilities elsewhere in the country. A quote: 'The lead investigator stated "The facilities are first-class; the physical conditions are way, way above average of the norm."' Which leaves the question, what is the acceptable norm?"
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Fair Labor Association Finds Foxconn Factory "First Class," Says Labor Watchdog Group

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  • Foxconn and Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bonch (38532) * on Saturday February 18, 2012 @03:02AM (#39083791)

    The Fair Labor Association found that Apple's plant...

    It's not Apple's plant. They're the biggest electronics factory in the world and make products for Dell, HP, Nintendo, Microsoft, Google, and more. Seems like a Greenpeace situation [slashdot.org] where Apple gets singled out because it generates more media coverage. Apple has actually been cited as the most proactive when it comes to monitoring work conditions in the factories they contract with.

  • What, already? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 18, 2012 @03:13AM (#39083829)

    They inspected them for less than a week.

    Yeah, alright. That's one swell job you guys have done.

    How about some surprise inspections over the course of the next 6 months at least?

  • Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3@NOSPaM.justconnected.net> on Saturday February 18, 2012 @03:16AM (#39083835)

    I make no judgement on these factories. I have no doubt that I'd never, ever work in one, or let anyone I cared about work in one. At the same time, I'm not convinced they're not a big step up for the average Chinese person. Remember your history lessons? In this country (USA), we know something about horrible working conditions. Foxconn doesn't sound as bad as Triangle Shirtwaist Company, or any of the mine towns with the company store and wage-slavery. And people voluntarily went there just as people are voluntarily working at Foxconn.

    The average work conditions have a lot to do with the environment. Sustenance farming was pretty miserable - is still pretty miserable, it's still around. There are still a huge number of people who would work in terrible conditions just for the privilege of a steady source of food (as opposed to fickle harvests).

    This isn't to say we should get complacent - the moment we as a people declare the status quo "good enough", we've lost.

    Having said that, there's a lot of people (many who will be posting in this article, I'm sure) that are convinced these factories are some sort of prison with forced-labor and the evil specter of Steve Jobs himself whipping workers until they're forced to jump. And that seems less productive than, you know, thinking.

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Saturday February 18, 2012 @03:17AM (#39083841)

    This article doesn't present any findings, and it's pretty clear the FLA in being interviewed only meant to explain who they are and how they will be investigating the working conditions at Apple's suppliers. The thing about working conditions is just a sound bite, no doubt taken out of context, to draw readers to what is really a pretty boring article.

  • by ericdano (113424) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @03:23AM (#39083861) Homepage

    Why is this -1?

    Why don't we examine some of the OTHER factories in China that do business with like, oh I dunno, WALMART? Or Sears? Or JC Penny? Or the GAP? Wonder how proactive Walmart is about working conditions where it gets its products from...

  • by bonch (38532) * on Saturday February 18, 2012 @03:23AM (#39083865)

    To be honest, your post comes off as over-the-top and fantastical. What are you talking about that they risk imprisonment or death if they speak out against Foxconn? Employees have been interviewed before. Their biggest gripes were the low pay and pressure to work overtime.

  • by tsj5j (1159013) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @03:48AM (#39083947)

    Most people commenting about Foxconn have lost all perspective because they allow themselves to be blinded by Apple hate.

    Let me explain why bashing Apple and Foxconn about this is so, so foolish.

    1.) Poorer working conditions aren't exclusive to Apple's factories, or even Foxconn.
    If you're trying to uphold your ideal working conditions on workers who create products you use, please take a step back and stop buying any product from any store. I can confidently tell you that all the products you use: your computer, tech gadgets, electronics, shoes, clothes, etc. are all made by workers in poor conditions, often even poorer than that of Foxconn. Instead of protesting against Apple/Foxconn, vote with your wallet instead of bitching in an online forum and feeling self-righteous after doing so.

    2.) Workers are -happy- about their job and working conditions. It's you who feel unhappy about them.
    Many workers are happy about their job and working conditions, in Foxconn and other such factories. These factories provide a lot of things (not just money) that they would never be able to dream of: a shelter over their head, varied meals, water, electricity, and more. Many of these people are uneducated and would be jobless otherwise. They need and are happy about these jobs. Your protesting will NOT IMPROVE THEIR LIVES. You will render them jobless (as you boycott these products and companies pull out of these countries) and effectively kill off their means of living.

    3.) Progress takes time.
    Most Americans have forgotten their past when there were still slaves, often in FAR worse conditions than that of China. It's been proven that a country needs time to develop, and attempting to shortcut the process will lead to disastrous results. 10 years ago, these people whom you claim to be working in "poor conditions" were starving because a drought wiped out their crops. Their lives have improved, and will improve as long as they have jobs.

  • Re:No way! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by icebike (68054) * on Saturday February 18, 2012 @03:50AM (#39083955)

    The outcome was known as soon as the study was announced.

    This group is a industry created and funded "watch dog" group trotted out when any of the funding members need some independent *cough* observers to come in and put on a media show.

  • by retroworks (652802) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @03:51AM (#39083961) Homepage Journal
    Have been there. This factory is way beyond garment factories in terms of attractiveness. The Shenzhen campus, which has about 600k employees, makes not just Apple but HTC, Sony, Panasonic, you-name-it. They are owned by Taiwan, employ management from Hong Kong, employ Cantonese labor , and are governed by Mandarin communist party staff. They are ISO certified. There are so many reasons to run this factory right, it's kind of surprising that activists who are really concerned would pick on a factory like this in the first place, as opposed to say the garment industry in Guangdong. http://www.greenpeace.org/eastasia/press/releases/toxics/2010/textile-industrial-pollution/ [greenpeace.org] My theory is that White People have their own "ju ju" words. Like Cameroonians who are scared to death of owls, environmentalists have an exaggerated sense of risk when something is technological and involves anything with toxics. A lot of cognitive risk dissonance over high tech and brown people. Personally, I think it's kind of cool that the Taiwanese, Hong Kong, Japanese, Communists, etc. get along here and run a factory that produces the coolest gadgets ever produced by humans. At the rate they have grown, I'm sure the auditor will find lots of violations. But the headline is accurate... the auditor knows within a few hours that they are NOT in the textile hell-hole up the river, or the smelter, or the copper mine.
  • by jamesh (87723) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @04:03AM (#39084003)

    So this organization is only a whitewash group for Apple.

    It may turn out that that is the case, but if the only evidence you have is "I don't like their findings" then you might as well be talking about the fairies at the bottom of the garden.

    Feel free to post evidence...

  • by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @04:09AM (#39084025) Journal

    If any of them talk to each other about the possibility of starting a union, they serve 12 years in jail. I heard this from the source that started this whole Apple Foxconn thing... the John Stewart show. The reason we're picking on Apple is because John picked on Apple, and because they really do have the margins to increase worker wages, unlike say Dell or HP. Actually, it was a terrific show, one of the best he's done, IMO. The whole point was of course bashing Republicans on the campaign trail as usual. This time he was highlighting the common theme about making America a more "business friendly" place for corporations, something Mitt talks a lot about. So, he said let's take a look at the world's most business friendly economy - China! His point was if you take the business friendly logic to it's natural extreme, you wind up with a near dictatorship oppressing the people for the good of big business.

  • by bloodhawk (813939) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @04:38AM (#39084119)
    They get singled out because they are by far and away the most profitable company and much of that profit is directly manufactured in that plant giving Apple far more influence over the running of that plant than any other company in the world. Apple has a huge margin they can play with and Foxconn would basically do anything to keep sucking in the profit that apple generates for them.
  • by Ardeaem (625311) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @04:40AM (#39084125)

    1.) Poorer working conditions aren't exclusive to Apple's factories, or even Foxconn.

    Irrelevant. "Joe may have killed someone, but Frank did too, so don't complain about Joe!" Being inconsistent in your calls for better treatment is much better than never calling for better treatment at all.

    2.) Workers are -happy- about their job and working conditions. It's you who feel unhappy about them. Your protesting will NOT IMPROVE THEIR LIVES. You will render them jobless (as you boycott these products and companies pull out of these countries) and effectively kill off their means of living.

    The whole point of exerting economic pressure through a boycott is to make it reasonable for a company to change their behavior to get you to buy their products again. Nobody, including people protesting, want to put anyone out of business. Also, and you might be surprised by this, but China is an authoritarian country. There can be dire consequences for protesting, and so you think they are happy, but really, they are forced by the government to be "content" with their lot. We know that conditions at Foxconn's factories have been bad in the past. There's no sense in saying "Oh, but those Chinese, their HAPPY about it!"

    3.) Progress takes time. Most Americans have forgotten their past when there were still slaves, often in FAR worse conditions than that of China.

    Time is not the cause of anything. Progress takes time, but that's because there's stuff that happens in time, like protests, political pressure, inspections, etc. You think slavery just ceased to exist because we gave it enough time? That shows a tremendous lack of historical understanding.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @04:50AM (#39084151)

    There's little of substance to the story. It was posted so that Apple haters could rush in, out of breath, and bash Apple for "slave labor" and other goofy crap. Slashdot is a Google/Linux advocacy site, and Apple is one of their competitors.

    I don't get how this is an article for Apple haters? An independent organization said that workers at factories that Appler uses have better working conditions than other factories and that the worst problem employees there face is boredom. How is that anti-Apple? I'm no Apple fan-boy, but the article validated what I thought all along - that working conditions in Apple's factories are no worse and probably better than in other factories.

  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sethstorm (512897) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @04:58AM (#39084185) Homepage

    Foxconn doesn't sound as bad as Triangle Shirtwaist Company, or any of the mine towns with the company store and wage-slavery. And people voluntarily went there just as people are voluntarily working at Foxconn.

    For having family in mining towns, and being two generations from one myself(on both sides), I'd say that Foxconn is worse. In mining towns of today, I'm not followed by representatives of the mining company's security company for entering the town, lawyers can openly practice against the mining company without fear of death or intimidation, the mining company isn't going to prosecute people that talk about their company, and people can buy things without having to be indebted to the company (such as with Foxconn).

    The worst practices by mining companies in the US are saintly in comparison to any company operating in the People's Republic of China. That, and people in those mining towns are treated with a lot more respect.

  • by symbolset (646467) * on Saturday February 18, 2012 @05:01AM (#39084193) Journal

    No, it's because between we few honest commenters there are an active few corporate interests. It is what it is, because /. is free and open to all - even shills.

    I wouldn't change it. If you like heavily edited well censored pap there are lots of sources for that. /. almost stands alone as a place where we can get our troll or truth on - as we prefer. In my experience there's a lot to be learned from both the honest folk and the trolls - and /. is the place to watch to see where the attempts at memes are going.

  • Suppliers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phorm (591458) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @05:17AM (#39084241) Journal

    Those aren't great examples.

    The companies you've listed aren't really "product line" companies. Yes, they have some of their own (rebranded) lines, but their primary business is selling other people's products (Nike, Reebok, Guess, Apple, Nintendo, whatever).

    That being said, I once knew somebody who worked as the middleman between a U.S. brand corp and Chinese manufacturers. Their contacts in the U.S. were ruthless and in many cases absolute dickheads. For whatever reason they could find, they'd slam the Chinese manufacturers with extra fees, penalties, etc. It became obvious fairly quickly that they considered the Chinese manufacturers a sort of sub-class... and the workers at said manufacturer weren't even considered at all.

    It's not just Apple, or even Foxconn, it's big business in the west overall. Given the way the corporatocracy treats locals as an inferior subspecies, it's not exactly unexpected. So long as the majority of consumers buy their products with no consideration to how they end up here, that's the way it will be.

    Don't weep for Apple. It's about time *somebody* noticed this sort of shit going all and asked their favoured corp an important question: "why?"
    One can only hope that it will result in some improvement, and - as Apple is currently a market leader - that it will eventually push other companies to follow.

  • by iamhassi (659463) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @05:24AM (#39084259) Journal

    It's not Apple's plant.

    True, but Apple gives them most of their business, like when Apple bought Samsung's entire supply of ram, almost half of the world's supply of NAND Flash RAM, for the 3GS. [appleinsider.com]

    If Apple said "Pay them more, give them less hours and more time off or we'll go elsewhere" Foxconn would, in a heartbeat, because they have no choice, Apple is the majority of Foxconn's business.

    I love my iPhone, but this whole mess really has me thinking twice about my next phone. If there was another smartphone that ran IOS and had a more "ethical" factory I'd probably purchase that rather than another iPhone, even if it was a bit more (10%? 20%?).

  • by uglyduckling (103926) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @05:25AM (#39084263) Homepage

    Thanks for translating. I'm presuming that you're aware of the manufacturing pedigree of the computer on which you're typing your comment, and that every component has come from a factory where workers have Western-style rights, working conditions, pay, sick leave, vacation etc..

    I'm pleased to hear that Apple products come from factories where conditions are far better than the norm in the prevailing culture. I hope that standards can be raised in all factories. I'm pretty sure that none of the workers are slaves.

  • by rossdee (243626) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @06:05AM (#39084415)

    "Hate to tell you, but that rocket scientist job with NASA requires a bit more."

    I think the rocket scientists will have to move to China if they want to keep doibng rocket science. NASA won't exist much longer.

  • by u38cg (607297) <calum@callingthetune.co.uk> on Saturday February 18, 2012 @06:26AM (#39084481) Homepage
    And in the meantime the children of the third world can go die on a rubbish dump? Fuck you.
  • by outsider007 (115534) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @06:40AM (#39084537)

    If you think the "John Stewart show" started this whole thing, then you too are part of the problem. This kind of pervasive ignorance of how the world works only happens in America.

  • Re:No way! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nahdude812 (88157) * on Saturday February 18, 2012 @07:19AM (#39084667) Homepage

    Exactly, the Fair Labor Association at its core is a conflict of interest. They are funded by the companies they report on. What company would pay them for bad press? If they release unfavorable reports, they lose their funding.

    Their charter has huge gaps in it, as though designed to provide companies loopholes to hide abuse. The biggest and most glaring example is that member companies are required to disclose only some factory locations. Meaning companies can create facade factories for inspection, while the real work continues to be done behind closed doors.

    Even still they don't live up to their own chartered requirements with respect to transparency and accountability. There are supposed to be regular reports on factory conditions for all member companies. There are supposed to be reports on factory locations for all member companies. When abuses are found, the company is supposed to be named and remediation steps disclosed. The FLA has one report more recent than 6 years old on their site. That one relatively recent report (August 2010) is full of abuses across multiple manufacturers, including people who believe they are "always" expected to work for "more than 72 hours in a week" and for "more than 24 days in a row," and that they were not free to refuse overtime without repercussions. Those were the top measured tier in each of those categories. None of the manufacturers were named, and no remediation steps are outlined. Thus making the report completely toothless since there is no accountability and no attempt to repair the problems.

    Apple opened up 90% of their factories for inspection. That's pretty good if accurate, it'd be hard to maintain a 90% facade. But they joined the FLA a month ago, FoxConn undoubtedly saw that there would be inspections coming through, and a month is more than enough time to clean up their act for inspection purposes. They also undoubtedly made it known to their workers that if they lose this Apple contract, those workers will be out of a job (and they really will be, nobody else will absorb that excess manufacturing capacity). So this inspection is easily whitewashed, and the workers will easily give glowing testimony so they retain their jobs. Also, wasn't it just a few days ago that they announced the inspections were going to start? They really thoroughly inspected all these factories in just a few days? Amazing!

    So what exactly is this inspection supposed to prove? Plenty of time to prepare, workers who know if the inspection goes wrong that they'll lose their jobs, and a whirlwind tour of the factories by a sham organization. This is a token, "We got our hand slapped, let's make puppy eyes at the media," publicity stunt.

  • by peragrin (659227) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @07:40AM (#39084717)

    Just remember Nokia, motorola, HTC also build their phones in China, but they don't even get apples minimal level of raising the workers up.

    There are ZERO phones out there made without sweatshops like this.

    Apple gets singled out because they are large, but smaller shops are the ones who treat them the worst.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 18, 2012 @08:09AM (#39084803)

    I personally have spent a few months in Chinese steel mills on and off as part of my old job as an automation/GUI programmer.. The plants are dirty as you could possibly imagine, dangerous and badly maintained, but the workers I saw actually seemed quite relaxed and worked fairly normal 8 hour shifts, took lunch breaks etc. I notice the quote only focused on the physical conditions at Foxconn, but it seems like this is probably more of a management problem. The plants might be nice and clean but if the workers need to work 12 hours a day 7 days a week for fear of losing their job of course some of them are going to get pretty depressed. What is the point of earning money in "clean" working conditions if you have no life, why not just jump out the window right now?

  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rockoon (1252108) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @08:34AM (#39084909)

    The problem with focusing on the fact that they are better than they could be is that you can justify practically any working conditions, so long as you can imagine something that's worse.

    Ah, but what are the important things to focus on? This is the slashdot fail. The important figure to focus on is China's wealth. Its GDP/Capita.

    Its really easy to sit here in one of the richest nations on earth and criticize a nation that has 1/10th the wealth per capita as America, and criticize them for not having the conditions that are only available in wealthy nations.. its easy as long as we completely ignore how fucking poor China is. Thats why none of the critics ever touch upon the subject of how poor the country is, but they instead appeal to emotions about "terrible working conditions" and other bullshit.

    The people of China need these factories in order to increase the wealth of the entire nation. The primary enemy of mankind is poverty. The number one killer of humans is poverty. How dare anyone sit in judgment of China for trying to better the lives of its people through wealth creation. If you want to judge the government for its assaults on freedom thats great.. but to judge the country because the people want a better life and are doing the same shit we did to make better lives for ourselves.. its bullshit... tired old dogmatic bullshit.

  • by pegasustonans (589396) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @10:04AM (#39085425)

    Just remember Nokia, motorola, HTC also build their phones in China, but they don't even get apples minimal level of raising the workers up.

    There are ZERO phones out there made without sweatshops like this.

    Apple gets singled out because they are large, but smaller shops are the ones who treat them the worst.

    I see a lot of people rushing to defend Apple, a large corporation that recently posted record profits.

    I don't see many concerned about the lives of these workers.

    It's a sad world we live in.

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