John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Inside Foxconn: Little Evidence of Abuse, but Workers Sure Want a Raise

Last night, ABC’s “Nightline” broadcast its unprecedented look at Apple’s Chinese manufacturing partner, Foxconn, which for years has been plagued by accusations of labor abuse and poor working conditions. And while it was certainly an illuminating look at Foxconn’s suicide net-festooned Shenzhen, China, factory complex and the people who work there, it didn’t uncover much evidence of any offenses. In fact, aside from a few noteworthy tidbits helpfully compiled by The Verge, the report revealed very little we didn’t already know.

Of course, Foxconn knew “Nightline” was coming and was obviously well prepared for its visit. Indeed, there are already allegations that Foxconn has been hiding underage employees from investigators.

That said, the Fair Labor Association is at this very moment conducting a massive audit of Foxconn that will see it not only examining production lines and employee dormitories, but digging through the company’s employment records in search of evidence of more serious problems. So perhaps there’s more to learn here. Maybe, Foxconn really doesn’t meet social responsibility standards.

But perhaps it does. And if — if — that’s the case and the FLA’s probe concludes without incident, maybe it’s time for the conversation to expand from allegations of employee abuse to subjects like fair wages, which actually seem to be top of mind for the Foxconn employees interviewed by “Nightline.”

Not to downplay any past or as yet uncovered worker mistreatment, but right now Foxconn seems to be just a massive contract manufacturer that folks living in industrialized nations probably wouldn’t want to work for. But thousands of others do, because, troubling though it may be, collecting $1.78 per hour for performing mind-numbing labor for 12 hours a day is a better alternative to remaining in the rural villages they come from.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work