Foxconn CEO: There’s Nothing Wrong With Sweatshops [Lost In Translation]

Foxconn CEO: There’s Nothing Wrong With Sweatshops [Lost In Translation]

We all work in a sweatshop and we love it!

Whether or not Foxconn’s running sweatshops is some matter of debate. The China Labor Watch says Foxconn’s iPhone assembly lines are sweatshops, while the Fair Labor Association says that factory worker conditions are much, much better than at actual sweatshops.

Now Foxconn CEO Terry Gou is trying to settle the debate. Yes, Gou says, Foxconn may well be running a sweatshop… but what’s wrong with sweatshops anyway?

During a recent publicity stunt in which Gou met a group of his Chinese employees who had won a free trip to Taiwan at the company’s expense along with a free iPhone and a cash bonus, the Foxconn chief said there was nothing wrong with working his employees hard as long as they were not breaking the law.

“People are calling us sweatshops. What’s wrong with sweatshops?” Gou asked. “All farmers sweat before they harvest! We sweat and we bleed, but as long as we comply with the law, we [the workers] deserve what we earn through our hard work.”

Here’s a video of some of Gou’s soundbites:

Translation (courtesy of MICGadget:

[SOUNDBITE]: Are all of you having fun ? (YES !) Do you want to visit Taiwan again ? (YES !)

Foxconn had arranged a Taiwanese style buffet for the workers over at Hon Hai base, with tasty traditional BBQ pork …

[SOUNDBITE]: People are calling us the “sweatshops”, what’s wrong with sweatshops ? As long as we comply with the law, today you deserve what you earn through your hard work …

[SOUNDBITE]: Wash what ? (‘washing’ away the image of sweatshops), the reason for holding this event … I Terry Gou will definitely not for anything to hold a show for the press … We are Foxconn as we are, same for Hon Hai …

[SOUNDBITE]: Any cities with a population of 5 million, our factory will be located over there, it will have our sales outlets …

Foxconn will be planning to build hospital in Shenzhen, in order to contribute to the medical industry … Guo was giving farewell to the leaving Chinese worker …

To be fair, there seems to be some things lost in translation here, and it’s pretty clear that the worst Gou is trying to say is that there’s nothing wrong with working hard as long as it’s voluntary and you are paid a fair wage for your work.

That said, given how contentious a subject worker abuse at Foxconn is in the West right now, you can’t help but think Gou might have expressed this sentiment without using the word “sweatshop” at all.

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  • Rwsportsfit

    I don’t know.  I think Americans need to stop trying to fix the rest of the world by forcing American cultural norms on other societies.  Asians generally work smarter and harder than their western counterparts.  To say to an Asian that they shouldn’t work 80 hours a week for $x.xx per hour in China is against cultural values of working hard for the state and the people.  Americans would rather work as little as possible for more than they are worth and produce.  What Americans should look at are the underpaid workers in the US that are under salary that work 70-80 hours a week in a corporate retail position for $35-$40k per year, working 10 consecutive days and getting their vacation taken away and called in on their days off.  No one complains about worker abuse in the US by US corporations because Kmart, Sears, Walmart, Costco, etc. aren’t “sweatshops” where people are “working in terrible conditions for terrible pay.”  China pretty much eats the cost of living for the majority of people when it places them into their positions in life for what they score well on aptitude testing for.  They don’t have the ridiculous living expenses in the US, therefore the if money were equal on both sides, they would be able to stretch their income over many more things than the average American who finds nothing wrong with $10 for a hotdog at a baseball game.

  • ApplePr0n

    If it works for them then do it. Who are we to say that their working conditions are our business. People need to keep to themselves

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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