Poisoned Apple? The Story of Foxconn

In Mike Daisy’s monologue the beginning description of his devotion to Apple is both entertaining, but scarily relateable.  I have been excitedly waiting for the release of iPhone 6 and am planning to purchase it soon.  And while tech is interesting, Deisy’ description of his visit to China and the social problems he encountered there really captured my attention.The first thing that blew me away about the story of Foxconn is the sheer size of the plant.  There are 430,000 employees and dining halls that hold up to 10,000 employees each.  If we took the entire student body at Bucknell it would only fill one third of a Foxconn dining hall.  In essence there are armies of people hand making tech products.

The description of the conditions in the plants are also startling and surreal.  Take for example hanging nets to prevent suicide, it sends the message “You can jump, but you can’t escape.”  Or the blatant disregard for labor laws with many young teens working at the plant.  Also, a twelve hour working day is standard and while the narrator was in China someone at Foxconn died after working a thirty four hour long work shift.  In the US such conditions would lead to outrage, sweeping protests and legislation.

A part of the labor conditions are due to the oppression of unions and the corruption of the Labor Board.  Here the discovery of a “worker blacklist” would be considered a scandal and lead to litigation.  However, through our consumerism and selective ignorance, Americans are supporting these labor conditions.  But surely the American consumer alone is not to blame.  The evidence presented in the podcast raises more questions than is answers; especially about social responsibility.  What about the tech companies like Apple that are providing business to these Chinese sweat shops?  Or how about the Chinese government that is failing to regulate conditions and improve them?  Are they not also responsible?  And if reform is to take place, where should it come from and in what form?


7 responses to “Poisoned Apple? The Story of Foxconn

  1. I think your point about responsibility is a really critical one. We can all agree that these production strategies are unethical and inhumane, but who is ultimately responsible for inciting change? Does it fall on Apple for employing these people in this way under these conditions? Does it fall on the Chinese government for allowing Apple to exploit its people? Does it fall on the workers themselves to strike or protest to demand better conditions for their own individual and collective well-being? Or does it fall on us as consumers for fueling the demand for these products and therefore perpetuating this labor system? I think your question is an incredibly important one, and the fact that there is no clear answer among several possibilities leaves us with a sort of “bystander effect,” where everyone knows something is wrong but responsibility is diffused and nothing is done to address it.


    • Precisely, the podcast raised many of those same questions. In an ideal world reform would come about at every level and organization. However, I am not so optimistic that would ever come about. In regards to amount of influence I think that the American consumer has a lot of power. If we only bought goods from socially responsible companies, changes would be sure to reverberate through the value chain.


  2. The question you posed about who is responsible for the change in working conditions at Foxconn is important and perplexing. It seems that the spark for change could come from various levels, yet no one is ready to take the leap necessary to end these terrible working conditions. I agree that the American consumer has a tremendous amount of power, in that if Americans stopped purchasing Foxconn products, the company would have to change their ways. However, how much would it take for Americans to stop purchasing products from these factories? Would the Chinese government or Apple be able to enact change faster?


  3. It is no question that the consumer has a huge hand in deciding whether Apple will continue to thrive despite remarkably atrocious business ethics. It is also likely that consumers will not change their purchasing decisions. Although that seems unacceptable that we simply cannot take responsibility ourselves, it is the tough reality. Therefore, should we expect other organizations to get involved such as the Chinese government? Why is it fair to expect this from them if we cannot take responsibility on our own?


  4. Personally, I think that while the responsibility lies on the Apple and other companies who are exploiting these cheap labor resources with no ethical standards to find a manufacturer who will abide by the ethics american consumers are provided on US soil (or at least something close). However since it is nearly useless for the government to restrict companies from using these unethical manufacturers, it is not likely that the shift will come from the companies themselves as a companies main goal is to make as much money as possible. It is inherently impossible to support a social clause and do your job in an upper management position because Social causes are expensive and it is your job to make your owners as much money as possible.


  5. It is frightening that these conditions are able to remain. I completely agree with your point about how if a person died from being over worked, their would be mass protest and outrage, and the company reputation would be ruined and they might need to worry about the future of their company. And that would be about one person dying, let alone having such a high suicide rate at a company that nets are necessary. My mind automatically is going to the recent case where a Walmart driver got into a car accident with the comedian Tracy Morgan, and it was found out that he had been driving for an amount of time that was beyond the limit. Walmart was all over the news, and had to make public statements, announce they would regulate even more, and a lawsuit.

    As far as who is responsible for changing the working condition, that is a tough question. Ideally it would be the Chinese government, because this would be the most linear process process. If it were Apple’s responsibility they could stop using companies like Foxconn, and that would hopefully cause them to change to retain there business. And the most indirect path would be from the consumers. If we stop using Apple products, then Apple would need to change, and that would hopefully cause the companies like Foxconn to change. However, although the most indirect, I think it would be the most likely to cause change. Right now Apple is doing well, Foxconn is doing well, and consumers are happy, the Chinese workers are only ones in a bad position, and as we have seen that has not done much to cause companies to change their ways. If all of the sudden sales were down, it would initiate change at a greater speed, because something would have to be done. Unfortunately, I am not sure how likely it is that enough of the population would stop using Apple product, because it is so prevalent in todays culture.


  6. When reading “you can jump, but you can’t escape”, I began comparing the factory to a jail. People are constantly being monitored and watched in jail so that they do not harm others, or themselves, while living in pretty bad conditions. The fact we are talking about a company like Apple in this regard is perplexing. Also, I liked how you questioned who the responsibility aspect of the situation. Everyone complains about Apple, yet there are other people involved like you mentioned. The Chinese government is simply overlooking it as well which is just as big of a problem as Apple.


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