China,  Trade Unions

Apple’s rotten core: students work at Foxconn or flunk

The AFL-CIO Now blog reports on the high (non-monetary) cost of Apple products:

More horrors out now from the Chinese serf-labor system involved in creating Apple products like iPads, iPhones and Kindles. It turns out many of the workers churning out millions of the devices in unendurable conditions at Foxconn and other factories are also forced laborers as young as 16.

The Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) says, “Legions of vocational and university students, some as young as 16, are forced to take months-long “internships” in Foxconn’s mainland China factories assembling Apple
products,” according to Alternet. One study found in some Foxconn factories, which employ 1.3 million people in China, up to 50 percent of the workforce were students.

SACOM and others report that schools teaching journalism, hotel management and nursing threatened students with failure if they did not take a factory position. The Chinese government-owned Global Times noted that “automotive majors at a vocational school in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan, were also forced to serve as interns for Foxconn before they were given their diplomas.

Apple’s formula for mammoth profits, which topped $13 billion last quarter, depends upon a steady supply of forced laborers who are put through a torturous training to accustom them to the factory working conditions.

To meet production goals, Foxconn relies on “military-style management…on the shop floor.” Workers say “military training” starts during the recruitment phase, such as being forced to stand in the sun for hours with no water. In Chengdu, some workers claimed that for up to one month before work began they had to line up in formation and “stand still as a soldier for hours.” Even the China Daily reported that the state-controlled Shenzhen Federation of Trade Unions said Foxconn has a “quasi-military management system.” According to scholars as well as business publications, Taiwanese managers in China refer to their management style as militaristic.

Vocational schools force their students into Apple slavery because they get a huge cut: While students receive less than $80 a month for working 11 hours a day, seven days a week, “over the course of a year, 500 students could net a school more than a million U.S. dollars in income.”

Often, corporate apologists in industrialized nations will counter that low wages paid to workers in developing nations are justifiable because cost of living is lower. Another study, also in the Alternet report, refutes that claim. Migrant workers at the iFactories in the Shenzhen Province, even with overtime, are paid 47 percent of what city residents earned and amounted to only two-thirds of the living wage calculated by SACOM.

And some self-described Leftists tell us we’re supposed to boycott products from Israel— which, unlike China, has a free and independent labor movement.

Update: Of course given the overall status of workers’ rights in China, no one should feel smug about owning non-Apple Chinese-made devices either.

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