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Apple's iPhone touchscreen supplier faces violent employee strike

post #1 of 72
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More than 2,000 workers at a Wintek Corp. factory in Suzhou, China, have gone on strike and destroyed equipment at their factory, potentially straining the supply of parts for Apple's iPhone.

According to China Daily, factory workers last week damaged equipment and vehicles in response to a number of alleged deaths from overexposure to toxic chemicals. Employees said they did not accept the local government's investigation into the matter. Bloomberg reported that the factory is a component supplier for the iPhone.

On Friday, workers gathered in the morning and caused damage at the Suzhou Industrial Park. They also blocked off a road and threw rocks at police, though no casualties were reported.

Various reports said that the workers were reacting to rumors of a canceled 2009 bonus, but one worker told China Daily the matter was not solely about money.

"What we feel angry about is the company authorities' apathy to our workers' health," said a worker named Zhu. He also added that employees have been overworked and underpaid.

Employees said there was a strong smell at the factory that they believe caused the deaths of four workers. One man, Li Liang, was found to have died of congenital heart disease -- a diagnosis his co-workers do not believe.

The employees believe the deaths are attributed to an overexposure to hexane, a toxic chemical used to clean touchscreen panels at the factory. Hexane can cause nervous system failure in humans.

Apple's overseas manufacturing partners have been the subject of much scrutiny over the years. Last July, an audit of Apple's partners in mainland China found that 45 of 83 factories that built iPhones and iPods in 2008 weren't paying valid overtime rates for those workers that qualified. In addition, 23 of those factories weren't even paying some of their workers China's minimum wage.

Last summer, Apple and manufacturing partner Foxconn made headlines after an alleged prototype 4G iPhone went missing from one of the company's factories. After an employee was questioned about the matter, he reportedly committed suicide.

In 2006, Apple audited Foxconn over the working conditions at its Chinese factories, after reports surfaced in a British newspaper about poor working conditions. The Cupertino, Calif., company issued a report on iPod manufacturing, which found no instances of forced overtime, but did find that some employees worked longer than the 60-hour weekly maximum.
post #2 of 72
I did not even know China cared about it's people...

And they have a minimum wage?

And they have audits? I thought all the companies were owned by the government.
post #3 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Neotyguy40 View Post

I did not even know China cared about it's people...

And they have a minimum wage?

And they have audits? I thought all the companies were owned by the government.

Yes, yes and no.

China is really only a socialist state in name only. It's actually more comparable to the Great Britain during the first industrial revolution, with a non-democratic government thrown into the mix (Fortunately, the government is a lot more benevolent nowadays).
post #4 of 72
Guess the Chinese government couldn't hack into Cupertino's computers and steal their IP like they did to Google and 30 or more other American companies using Internet Exploder.

So they make Apple sell outrageously expensive wifi-less iPhones and set up poor working conditions for riots at Apple's primary manufacturers.

And I'm willing to bet the mole who stole the prototype iPhone was working for the Chinese government and his murder was made to look like a suicide so he wouldn't talk.
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The danger is that we sleepwalk into a world where cabals of corporations control not only the mainstream devices and the software on them, but also the entire ecosystem of online services around...
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post #5 of 72
Well, Chinese workers are finally seeing the light and rebelling like American workers did a century or so ago.

Hopefully they'll fight for pay and health & environmental improvements, raising the cost of doing business (but also protecting people and the environment) and creating a more level playing field for global workers.

And then businesses will move their factories to the next cheapest place they can exploit workers.
post #6 of 72
Historically you always get this tension between labour and capital, where capital wants to pay less and labour want more.

Still, bit of a worry if there's chemicals that can't be better managed with exhaust flues or perhaps the use of robots to handle that part of the production process.

Hope the management is able to work to arbitrate and keep people safe, but still with lots of work.

I disagree with strikes due to crazy wage claims often (you know where prices might go up 3% but wage demands of 26% are made) but at the end of the day all most people really want is fairness and to go home safe at night.
post #7 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by benice View Post

Historically you always get this tension between labour and capital, where capital wants to pay less and labour want more.

Still, bit of a worry if there's chemicals that can't be better managed with exhaust flues or perhaps the use of robots to handle that part of the production process.

Hope the management is able to work to arbitrate and keep people safe, but still with lots of work.

I disagree with strikes due to crazy wage claims often (you know where prices might go up 3% but wage demands of 26% are made) but at the end of the day all most people really want is fairness and to go home safe at night.




I know this is a foreign concept to western countries where human life and conditions are valuable, but in most parts of the world, human life is extremely cheap and disposable.

The problem is when people get to be too numerous in a area, their needs and wants get to be too overwhelming. The human animal is happiest in small groups, where they can deal with each others needs, not large congregations.

So what happens in a setting like this large factory, the owner is disconnected from the workers and their conditions, using people like tools to be thrown away when broken and replaced. A business owner is usually constantly focusing on the bottom line, trying to maximize profits because he (or she) doesn't know what the next unexpected cost will arise and threaten their carefully laid plans. So they tend to cut corners and try to find ways of doing things without spending money. The purpose of business is to make money after all.

So apparently this business owner pushed things a bit too far and now has lost substantial capital and resources. Of course adequate supervision by qualified state supervisors would have averted this mess, knowing from other work projects that causing human misery will result in chaos. Thus I suspect it was allowed to continue in order to drive American businesses out of the Chinese market.
The danger is that we sleepwalk into a world where cabals of corporations control not only the mainstream devices and the software on them, but also the entire ecosystem of online services around...
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The danger is that we sleepwalk into a world where cabals of corporations control not only the mainstream devices and the software on them, but also the entire ecosystem of online services around...
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post #8 of 72
Just get me my next generation iPhone. Back to work.
post #9 of 72
Apple should just bring the manufacturing back to the US and set an example for the thousands of other US-based companies that produce in China, while we have to deal with a 10% unemployment rate.

What people don't seem to want to see is that one day we will have to pay the price, and the longer we wait, the more painful it's going to be.
post #10 of 72
Perhaps this is what it looks like when the pendulum starts to swing back..

Step 1: Labor is cheap in the US because there are no governmental controls on conditions for workers

Step 2: Domestic labor wants a taste of its own success by demanding better working conditions

Step 3: Government goes too far and makes it too expensive to produce products domestically

Step 3: US outsources labor to foreign countries because it is cheaper

Step 4: Foreign laborers demand better conditions, which increases cost, closing the gap between domestic and foreign production


Maybe it is just wishful thinking on my part...who knows?
post #11 of 72
For the labor pendulum to swing back to the US somewhat, US labor cost will need to stop rising or decline somewhat. Perhaps in the US there might be company provided housing and healthcare in exchange for low pay.

Maybe from all of this the world will end up with common labor standards, but I suspect this will take generations.
post #12 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by someone00 View Post

... China is really only a socialist state in name only. It's actually more comparable to the Great Britain during the first industrial revolution, with a non-democratic government thrown into the mix (Fortunately, the government is a lot more benevolent nowadays).

This is not true. China's current setup is almost textbook Fascism. Great Britain has never been that close to a Fascist state.
post #13 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacTripper View Post

I know this is a foreign concept to western countries where human life and conditions are valuable......

There you go again with your condescending politico-social babble. Perhaps it's just that 'human life and conditions' are cheap everywhere for less well-off segments of society?

Do you want me to mention the many instances even in a country such as the US where this is the case? How about starting by googling the name 'Anthony Sowell'? Does that bespeak what US's approach to 'human life and conditions' are? Of course not.
post #14 of 72
You'll never close the cost gap between Chinese and domestic workers when the Chinese Gov't keeps the Yuan artificially low. This theory only works in the real world where currencies are allowed to find their actual values in the world economy. OBTW, this is why China has such a drastic trade surplus.

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post #15 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Neotyguy40 View Post

I did not even know China cared about it's people...

And they have a minimum wage?

And they have audits? I thought all the companies were owned by the government.

Wow. Never heard of a thing called 'newspapers' either, I suppose.
post #16 of 72
I can already tell this thread will have nothing to do with increasing my knowledge of tech. But it should make for a bloody battle amongst AI posters who normally don't fight with each other much.
post #17 of 72
Yes, I would be willing to pay more for my next iPhone if it meant being assured those assembling it were not exposed to hexane & were treated humanely.
post #18 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

Just get me my next generation iPhone. Back to work.

Don't play the ignorant American role, you're giving others a bad name.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #19 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roos24 View Post

Apple should just bring the manufacturing back to the US and set an example for the thousands of other US-based companies that produce in China, while we have to deal with a 10% unemployment rate.

What people don't seem to want to see is that one day we will have to pay the price, and the longer we wait, the more painful it's going to be.

That's a noble thought but, would you also be willing to pay 3-4 times what you pay now for Apple products? Because that is exactly what would happen to their pricing and any company's pricing if they had to pay US minimum wage and pay health benefits and provide a retirement plan and have safe working conditions where employees weren't exposed to lethal amounts of hexane. I mean, why do you think EVERYTHING in your house is made in China?
post #20 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

Don't play the ignorant American role, you're giving others a bad name.

Who said I'm American?
post #21 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roos24 View Post

Apple should just bring the manufacturing back to the US and set an example for the thousands of other US-based companies that produce in China, while we have to deal with a 10% unemployment rate.

What people don't seem to want to see is that one day we will have to pay the price, and the longer we wait, the more painful it's going to be.

Jobs in America would certainly be great. But who, exactly, would be building this component? Zenith? Magnavox? Sylvania?
post #22 of 72
as a chemist who has regularly worked with hexanes and related chemicals, there are both many ways to avoid safety issues with this chemical (gloves and masks, for example), and many safer options (check out heptane, as a really obvious example)...

of course, the issue is that these measures cost money, and these companies have to play by the same else they get washed out by the competition. Accordingly, either China needs to set some standards (yeah right), or someone needs to pressure them into changing (yeah, right)...

nope, I don't got no solutions.
post #23 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerseymac View Post

I can already tell this thread will have nothing to do with increasing my knowledge of tech.

Other than for the mention of the chemical name of the cleaning fluid, what about his story is 'tech?'
post #24 of 72
It's more accurate to say that the United States has expensive labor and cheap natural resources, while most developing industrial nations suffer the reverse.

Hexane is widely used and relatively safe, but chronic exposure has known risks. Workplace safety requires a persistent and concerted effort, which clearly they are not prioritizing. For instance, at my current job, I can't even have a soldiering gun without goggles, a fire extinguisher, a ventilated hood, etc., and we're not even using lead anymore!

Note that the last domestic U.S. manufacturer of computers was NeXT, nearly 20 years ago, selling for $10,000. I worked at Dell 15 years ago, but all the electronics were custom-built elsewhere (i.e., overseas) and the U.S. plants were just doing the assembling. I cannot envision a competitive domestic electronics manufacturer.
post #25 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

Other than for the mention of the chemical name of the cleaning fluid, what about his story is 'tech?'

Other than the high-pitched squealing, what about your comment makes a contribution to this conversation?
post #26 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by gus2000 View Post

Other than the high-pitched squealing, what about your comment makes a contribution to this conversation?

At least it was a comment on topic, which yours weren't.
post #27 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roos24 View Post

Apple should just bring the manufacturing back to the US and set an example for the thousands of other US-based companies that produce in China, while we have to deal with a 10% unemployment rate.

What people don't seem to want to see is that one day we will have to pay the price, and the longer we wait, the more painful it's going to be.

Sure, iPhone will cost $1000 probably.
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post #28 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by John.B View Post

You'll never close the cost gap between Chinese and domestic workers when the Chinese Gov't keeps the Yuan artificially low. This theory only works in the real world where currencies are allowed to find their actual values in the world economy. OBTW, this is why China has such a drastic trade surplus.

Well said. Keeping the yuan artificially low is effectively their employment policy. (for interest, current unemployment rate is 9.2% in China.)

Somewhat getting off topic here I guess.
post #29 of 72
Another reason to be thankful that the US don't make stuff any more.

I appreciate the Chinese who sacrificed their health, environment and more to make my iPhone. Thank you

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post #30 of 72
The comparison of present-day China to early 19th century Britain is quite apt. A huge labor market being simultaneously pushed from the countryside into the cities by industrial development, where wages are poor and living and working conditions worse. Probably some know the story of Ned Lud -- two hundred years later it sounds eerily similar. The biggest difference of course is that this is the 21st century and China has a totalitarian form of government. I'm not sure that the world has ever seen that particular combination.
Please don't be insane.
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Please don't be insane.
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post #31 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by gus2000 View Post

Note that the last domestic U.S. manufacturer of computers was NeXT, nearly 20 years ago, selling for $10,000.

Apple had a plant in Fountain, Colorado that they sold in 1996. All work was transferred to SCI at the same facility for three more years.
Apple plant in Elk Grove, California made G4s and G5s until April 2004.
post #32 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by John.B View Post

You'll never close the cost gap between Chinese and domestic workers when the Chinese Gov't keeps the Yuan artificially low. ..OBTW, this is why China has such a drastic trade surplus.

Well, that also has to do somewhat with the fact that we don't make anything in this country anymore. Even if the Yuan were to be adjusted, the dollar would never catch up. This country became a services-based economy in the 80s and didn't look back (and some would say the middle class).

EVERYTHING is made in China these days. Even the "American" and "Japanese" car companies use a lot of Chinese-made parts, from the plastic blinker lights to things likeChinese steel and windshields.

One day, it's going to be a pretty big problem. "Hey can we buy some of your steel so we can make a battleship to destroy you? No? How about some computer chips so we can send you an email about this this peace accord thing?"
post #33 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by gus2000 View Post

It's more accurate to say that the United States has expensive labor and cheap natural resources, while most developing industrial nations suffer the reverse.

Hexane is widely used and relatively safe, but chronic exposure has known risks. Workplace safety requires a persistent and concerted effort, which clearly they are not prioritizing. For instance, at my current job, I can't even have a soldiering gun without goggles, a fire extinguisher, a ventilated hood, etc., and we're not even using lead anymore!

Note that the last domestic U.S. manufacturer of computers was NeXT, nearly 20 years ago, selling for $10,000. I worked at Dell 15 years ago, but all the electronics were custom-built elsewhere (i.e., overseas) and the U.S. plants were just doing the assembling. I cannot envision a competitive domestic electronics manufacturer.

No one remembers the deliberately toxic milk, or lead infested toys?

It's good to see the Chinese workers trying to get some kind of safety standards ironed out, although it will raise prices somewhat. All in all, it isn't worth people dying to assemble electronics for goodness sake.

Envisioning a plant to assemble electronics in the US isn't that hard now, given the economic climate. People are tired of the overinflated Union cost of business (although most really only read or see about the bad ones, i.e., UAW, MTA.) The UAW and their respective managerial counterparts I think have learned their lesson, shown by Toyota and Hyundai. $1B US auto plants that have no unions, yet fair pay and a stake in the company for the workers. Tying together performance with wealth, much like should be done with the CEO's pay of those companies (kind of like Mr. Jobs does.)

These things can have their place here in the US, it just takes a long time for corporations to change. They have invested quite a bit of time and money into moving operations overseas. I think in a few years you will see things start to come back State-side. Apple is building a server farm here, don't forget. Given their tendency to be 5 years ahead on technological advances, maybe time will show they are 5 years ahead on corporate strategy as well.

After all, there is no place like home when it comes to controlling your IP, every one else in the world has far more lenient copyright/patent laws. Here's to hoping
post #34 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by iVlad View Post

Sure, iPhone will cost $1000 probably.

Seems to me you pulled that number out of an orifice. It assumes (as did another poster) that somehow assembly costs are a very significant portion of the cost of each iPhone, something I would strongly refute. We all have seen the articles on how much the components of an iPhone cost, and that Apple marks everything up about 100%. I therefore propose that it only costs $10 or so to assemble an iPhone, as there's not a whole lot of $ left to play with. As such, if you were to clean up these factories of their hexane and give these workers the bonus they were promised, you'd only add $1-2 to the cost of each unit. If you're willing to deny these workers that small amount, then you're a jackass, pure and simple.
post #35 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by skittlebrau79 View Post

Well, that also has to do somewhat with the fact that we don't make anything in this country anymore. Even if the Yuan were to be adjusted, the dollar would never catch up. This country became a services-based economy in the 80s and didn't look back (and some would say the middle class).

EVERYTHING is made in China these days. Even the "American" and "Japanese" car companies use a lot of Chinese-made parts, from the plastic blinker lights to things likeChinese steel and windshields.

One day, it's going to be a pretty big problem. "Hey can we buy some of your steel so we can make a battleship to destroy you? No? How about some computer chips so we can send you an email about this this peace accord thing?"

I think you are confusing Chinese steel with American recycled steel. We send them our scraps, they smelt it and either use it or sell it back to us.
post #36 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by skittlebrau79 View Post

Well, that also has to do somewhat with the fact that we don't make anything in this country anymore. Even if the Yuan were to be adjusted, the dollar would never catch up. This country became a services-based economy in the 80s and didn't look back (and some would say the middle class).

EVERYTHING is made in China these days. Even the "American" and "Japanese" car companies use a lot of Chinese-made parts, from the plastic blinker lights to things like…Chinese steel and windshields.

True, we don't build much in this country anymore.

But if the yuan floated against the dollar, euro, yen, etc. this lopsided manufacturing imbalance (and trade imbalance, but I'm looking smaller here) would eventually strengthen the yuan to the point where it was no longer cost feasible for western companies to build their goods in China. So goods imported into China would become cheaper and goods exported from China would become more expensive. Note that this wouldn't benefit the Chinese worker much unless they already had the means to buy imported goods (which nationalism would say needed to be "protected", sound familiar?)

OBTW, this is why the 2010 Toyota Camry sold in the US today actually has more US content than so-called domestic cars that ostensibly come from Detroit.

Back on topic...

For goods from Apple, the initial change that would happen if the yuan were allowed to float against world currencies is that components would still come from China for a time while actual construction would move to Vietnam, etc. Eventually this would spark mini-Chinas anywhere labor was cheap and strife was low. Historically, before that was the Republic of China, it was Japan, Taiwan, Korea, etc. Rinse and repeat.

Note that China has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. I'm just not sure why the US and EU allow it to happen as it's not in our collective best interests. Wall Street vs. Main Street, I guess. Usually this degenerates into a populist protectionist movement, which will temporarily cripple both Chinese and western economies until it can find a new equilibrium. Either way, it won't last.

Quote:
Originally Posted by skittlebrau79 View Post

One day, it's going to be a pretty big problem. "Hey can we buy some of your steel so we can make a battleship to destroy you? No? How about some computer chips so we can send you an email about this this peace accord thing?"

Exactly. Remember that access to resources was the original conflict that drove the Japanese to attack the US in WWII. Not that it was a "winnable" war, but that it reached a point where fighting it became inevitable.

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post #37 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by gus2000 View Post

Other than the high-pitched squealing, what about your comment makes a contribution to this conversation?

You must be a tech guy, for sure: you can tell the pitch from text!
post #38 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

Seems to me you pulled that number out of an orifice. It assumes (as did another poster) that somehow assembly costs are a very significant portion of the cost of each iPhone, something I would strongly refute. We all have seen the articles on how much the components of an iPhone cost, and that Apple marks everything up about 100%. I therefore propose that it only costs $10 or so to assemble an iPhone, as there's not a whole lot of $ left to play with. As such, if you were to clean up these factories of their hexane and give these workers the bonus they were promised, you'd only add $1-2 to the cost of each unit. If you're willing to deny these workers that small amount, then you're a jackass, pure and simple.

Wow. And which orifice did you pull $10 out of?
You have no idea how international manufacturing works. You actually think the $10 cost (you know; the $10 you pulled out of your orifice) to assemble the iPhone, as it assembled today, is the same cost it would be if parts were all boxed and shipped to U.S., transported to factories assembled, packaged, loaded back on planes, and then sent back to China, Europe, etc?
(yeah, $10) Brilliant.
post #39 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

Seems to me you pulled that number out of an orifice. It assumes (as did another poster) that somehow assembly costs are a very significant portion of the cost of each iPhone, something I would strongly refute. We all have seen the articles on how much the components of an iPhone cost, and that Apple marks everything up about 100%. I therefore propose that it only costs $10 or so to assemble an iPhone, as there's not a whole lot of $ left to play with. As such, if you were to clean up these factories of their hexane and give these workers the bonus they were promised, you'd only add $1-2 to the cost of each unit. If you're willing to deny these workers that small amount, then you're a jackass, pure and simple.

if it's that easy and cheap why isn't apple making iphones here but instead paying the shipping costs from China along with all the other costs of doing business in China?

probably because in the 21st century you will never find a community in the USA that will let you build a factory that spits out all this hazardous waste. there are a lot of these wackos here in NYC and there are still parts of NYC that aren't being built up because of pollution clean up costs. Whole Foods abandoned a store here it was well into the process of building after the pollution clean up costs got out of control
post #40 of 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by wtbard View Post

For the labor pendulum to swing back to the US somewhat, US labor cost will need to stop rising or decline somewhat. Perhaps in the US there might be company provided housing and healthcare in exchange for low pay.

Do YOU want to work at such company?
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