Update: Apple’s Chinese iPhone Plants Employ Forced Interns, Claim Campaigners
Apple’s factories in China are employing tens of thousands of students, some of them on forced internships, according to campaigners lobbying for better labour conditions at Foxconn plants, which assemble iPhones. Some students could be as young as 16.
The Foxconn chairman, Terry Gou, head of China’s largest private-sector employer – with 1.2 million workers – promised on Sunday to reduce hours and improve pay after an independent audit found multiple labour law violations at his factories.
But campaigners have accused Apple, Foxconn and the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a charitable organisation that carried out the audit published on Friday, of ignoring the issue of forced internships, where students are told they will not graduate unless they spend months working on production lines during holidays.
In December, 1,500 students were sent by just one vocational college in Henan, China’s most populous province, for internships at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant, which Apple chief executive, Tim Cook, visited last week. The Yancheng Evening News, which exposed the practice, interviewed students who said they were going against their will and that their schools were acting as “labour agencies”.
“The gross violation of forced internship was not addressed at all,” said Debby Cheng, project officer of Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (Sacom), of the Foxconn audit. “They tried to water down the problem.”
Students of nursing, languages, music and art are being corralled into internships of between three and six months, during which 10-hour days and seven-day weeks are not unusual, according to Sacom and a number of Chinese media reports, which claim colleges and universities are acting as employment agencies, sending their pupils to Foxconn not for relevant training, but to bolster the workforce during summer and winter holiday periods.
In the summer of 2010, when Foxconn was in crisis after several suicides among the workforce at its largest plant in Shenzhen, 100,000 vocational school students – mostly in their late teens – were sent from Henan for three months.
China Daily reported that some students at a vocational school in Henan’s capital, Zhengzhou, were not told of the work until nine days before they were due to leave home. Teachers told students they must leave “as ordered by the provincial government” and that all those who refused would have to drop out of school.
Update: Radio’s ‘This American Life’ Retracts Apple Story
JH sent this.
The public radio program “This American Life” on Friday retracted a story about the harrowing tale of what an artist said he found while investigating Apple operations in China, citing “numerous fabrications.”
The show’s weekend broadcast details inconsistencies in the highly popular Jan. 6 episode that was an excerpt from writer Mike Daisey’s critically acclaimed one-man show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” which currently is at the Public Theater in New York.
“We’re retracting the story because we can’t vouch for its truth,” Ira Glass, host of “This American Life,” said in a letter posted on the show’s website.
The New York Times said later Friday that it also had removed a questionable paragraph from the online archive of an op-ed piece Daisey wrote for the newspaper in October. Daisey also twisted the truth about his time in China during an interview with The Associated Press late last year.
In his monologue, Daisey describes meeting very young workers who put in very long hours and were forced to do crippling, repetitive motions at factories that make Apple products in China. Some he claimed had been poisoned by a chemical called hexane.
But “This American Life” says Rob Schmitz, a China correspondent for the public radio show “Marketplace,” located and interviewed Daisey’s Chinese interpreter, who disputed much of the artist’s claims. Daisey, under questioning from Glass, admitted in Friday’s broadcast that he didn’t meet any poisoned workers and guessed at the ages of some of the workers he met.
“This American Life” said in its statement that staffers asked Daisey for his interpreter’s contact information while fact-checking the story and he said the cellphone number he had for her didn’t work anymore and he had no way to reach her.
“At that point, we should’ve killed the story,” Glass said. “But other things Daisey told us about Apple’s operations in China checked out, and we saw no reason to doubt him.”
Daisey posted on his web site Friday that he stands by his work and that what he does is theater, not journalism.
“‘This American Life’ is essentially a journalistic — not a theatrical — enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret,” Daisey’s letter said.
Daisey spokesman Philip Rinaldi said Friday his client was “not speaking to anyone about this right now.”
Apple has been rebutting Daisey’s allegations for months, to little effect. The Times also wrote an investigative series in January on dangerous working and living conditions for people who make Apple products in China, including explosions inside factories making iPads where four people were killed and 77 were injured.
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment Friday.
Be sure to remove your children from the room if you listen to this.
Also, here are the large companies that have outsourced manufacturing to Foxconn [source: Wikipedia]:
(country of headquarters in parentheses)
Acer Inc. (Taiwan)
Amazon.com (United States)
Apple Inc. (United States)
Barnes & Noble (United States)
Cisco (United States)
Dell (United States)
EVGA Corporation (United States)
Hewlett-Packard (United States)
Intel (United States)
IBM (United States)
Microsoft (United States)
Motorola (United States)
Netgear (United States)
Samsung (South Korea)
Sony Ericsson (Japan/Sweden)
Vizio (United States)
So, while Apple and Apple zombies make so much noise about how different Apple’s stuff is from the competition, it’s all made in the same Foxconn dungeons.
Ira Glass: OK, I am holding a new iPhone 4S in my hand. This is the one that you can talk to, and it talks back. It’s a program called Siri. So let’s try this. I’m just going to hold it up to the microphone here and push a button.
Ira Glass: Siri, where do you come from?
Siri Software: I, Siri, was designed by Apple in California.
Ira Glass: Where were you manufactured?
Siri Software: I’m not allowed to say.
Ira Glass: Why?
Siri Software: Good question. Anything else I can do for you?
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