Chinese manufacturer Foxconn has been the center of much criticism lately, with reports of worker suicides and the inhumane treatment of employees stirring up controversy. The issue has even reached the desk of funnyman Jon Stewart at The Daily Show.
Popular radio show This American Liferecently aired an episode on Foxconn that every Apple/technology enthusiast should listen to. Monologist Mike Daisey describes his trip to Shenzhen, China and the mini-city known as Foxconn. (And this isn’t the first time he’s spoken out on Foxconn’s behalf.) It’s an incredibly interesting look at where our gadgets come from and the people that make them.
An excerpt from the episode transcript:
And I look up past the gates and the guards. I look up at the buildings, these immense buildings. They are so enormous. And along the edges of each enormous building are the nets, because right at the time that I am making this visit, there’s been an epidemic of suicides at the Foxconn plant. Week after week, worker after worker has been climbing all the way up to the tops of these enormous buildings and then throwing themselves off, killing themselves in a brutal and public manner, not thinking very much about just how bad this makes Foxconn look. Foxconn’s response to month after month of suicides has been to put up these nets.
It’s shift change, and the workers are coming out of the plant. And I’m standing there under the hot monsoon sun and the gaze of the guards. I feel ridiculous. I look absurd in this landscape. I mean, I wouldn’t talk to me. And Kathy surprises me. Who knew? She turns out to be a spitfire. She runs right over to the very first worker, grabs them by the arm, drags them over to us. We start talking, and in short order, we cannot keep up.
First there’s one worker waiting, then there’s two, then there’s three. Before long the guards are like, er? Er? And we move further and further away from the plant, but the line just gets longer and longer. Everyone wants to talk. We start taking them three or four at a time. We still can’t keep up. Everyone wants to talk. It’s like they were coming to work every day thinking, you know what would be great? It would be so great if somebody who uses all this crap we make every day all day long, it would be so great if one of those people came and asked us what was going on. Because we would have stories for them.
You can listen to the full radio episode with more commentary from Ira Glass and other journalists and industry professionals. Foxconn makes products for companies like Apple, Dell, Nokia, Panasonic, HP, Samsung, Sony, and Lenovo. If you read sites like Cult of Mac, you own at least a few products that have come from Foxconn.
Jon Stewart takes a more satirical approach to the issue of worker rights at Foxconn in a recent episode of The Daily Show. The segment is called “Fear Factory,” and we’ve embedded it below. (It’s flash. Sorry.)