Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn seeks to change villainous public perception

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2015
Long thought of as a soulless megacorp that treats workers as disposable cogs in its constantly-grinding machinery, Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn -- one of Apple's closest partners -- granted a rare look inside its Shenzhen factory gates as it attempts to alter that perception.


Image via Re/code


The dirty, unkempt building exteriors hung with suicide prevention nets belied the "college campus"-like environment within, according to Re/code's Dawn Chmielewski. She was given a tour of the living areas at Foxconn's Longhua facility, which is home to some 140,000 workers, though she was not allowed on the factory floors.

Much of Foxconn's poor reputation in the West is the result of a highly-publicized rash of worker suicides in 2010, and the company has taken steps to ensure that anyone contemplating such action has help available. Mental health counseling is free of charge, and a 24-hour hotline -- which reportedly fields around 1,000 calls each day -- is open to any worker.

"Suicide is a very complex event. There's not just one thing [to fix] and there's no more suicide," company spokesperson Louis Woo told the publication. "Any large institution -- you will always suffer from that statistical occurrence, no matter what you do. But that doesn't mean we don't have to do anything."


Image via Re/code


In addition to the therapeutic resources, Foxconn has diversified its geographic operations, opening more rural plants that help workers stay closer to their family and friends. Physical changes to the plant have also helped, Woo said.

"If you can stop that impulse, even for 30 seconds -- the person has to struggle for 30 seconds to open the window -- they will change their mind," he added.

Chmielewski was shown worker dormitories that Foxconn "sought to portray...as akin to college campuses." Up to eight workers share each room, and every workers shares "identical metal bunk beds, with thin mattress and mosquito netting on top, and a desk and storage underneath."


Image via Re/code


Other amenities include an outdoor track with bleachers, as well as five swimming pools, a movie theater, and an internet cafe where workers can play PC games. Near the cafe -- which is located on "a tree-lined main street" -- restaurants, cafes, banks, and shops are available.

Foxconn has also invested heavily in education, saying that around 1.5 million students have completed trade education at the on-site Foxconn University since 2007.

Apple has been using its status to lean on manufacturing partners to improve working conditions in recent years, and audits its supply chain each year. In its most recent supplier responsibility report, the company found that 92 percent of employees were at or below its 60-hour weekly cap on working hours, and that no supplier had violated Apple's prohibition against charging recruitment fees to workers.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 43
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 18,816member

    That perception of a 'soulless megacorp' exists mostly among illiterates on the Left the illiterate wing of the Left.

     

    I think of Foxconn as a great company that has made all our lives -- including those of the employees in Asia who, as prospectives, lined up around the block to work for them -- better.

     

    I honestly couldn't care less what the hypocritical ignoramuses say on this issue, although it would be less hypocritical on their part if they typed their comments on a computer/tablet/smartphone that was not assembled by the likes of Foxconn.

     

    That said, could/should Foxconn continuously strive to do better? Of course. So could Apple. So could all of us.

  • Reply 2 of 43
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

     

    That perception of a 'soulless megacorp' exists mostly among illiterates on the Left.

     

    I think of Foxconn as a great company that has made all our lives -- including those of the employees in Asia who, as prospectives, lined up around the block to work for them -- better.

     

    I honestly couldn't care less what the hypocritical ignoramuses say on this issue, although it would be less hypocritical on their part if they typed their comments on a computer/tablet/smartphone that was not assembled by the likes of Foxconn.

     

    That said, could/should Foxconn continuously strive to do better? Of course. So could Apple. So could all of us.




    Well said. Part of it is a perspective issue; lots of people think factory work is 'icky'.

     

    The reality is this is a heck of a lot better than being a Chinese coal miner, or working in the rice fields all day.

  • Reply 3 of 43
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,417member

    Well said. Part of it is a perspective issue; lots of people think factory work is 'icky'.

    The reality is this is a heck of a lot better than being a Chinese coal miner, or working in the rice fields all day.

    Factory work is dreadful (I did it myself as a young person). The place I worked was dangerous, the work was mind-numbing and I became very depressed to the point where I'd go in for a full day of work, then leave having almost no memory of the entire day having passed. It was awful. And here's the thing: This was in the US, not China!
  • Reply 4 of 43
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post





    Factory work is dreadful (I did it myself as a young person). The place I worked was dangerous, the work was mind-numbing and I became very depressed to the point where I'd go in for a full day of work, then leave having almost no memory of the entire day having passed. It was awful. And here's the thing: This was in the US, not China!



    Oh, I'm not saying it's not hard, but you don't typically have factory explosions or spend the day breathing in toxic dust to die of black lung by 50. Even in the US coal mining is risky; in China it's an order of magnitude worse.

     

    And an iPhone factory is a lot quieter, I'd expect, than say, a car assembly plant or a metal stamping factory.

  • Reply 5 of 43
    danielswdanielsw Posts: 905member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post





    Factory work is dreadful (I did it myself as a young person). The place I worked was dangerous, the work was mind-numbing and I became very depressed to the point where I'd go in for a full day of work, then leave having almost no memory of the entire day having passed. It was awful. And here's the thing: This was in the US, not China!



    Yours was not the best way of approaching factory work. And just because you weren't able to handle it, doesn't mean millions of others don't. We don't hear from the ones who actually enjoy it, at least for the fact that it's work that pays the bills and supports families.

  • Reply 6 of 43
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,417member
    danielsw wrote: »

    Yours was not the best way of approaching factory work. And just because you weren't able to handle it, doesn't mean millions of others don't. We don't hear from the ones who actually enjoy it, at least for the fact that it's work that pays the bills and supports families.

    Oh, shut up.
  • Reply 7 of 43
    danielswdanielsw Posts: 905member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post





    Oh, shut up.



    "Oh, shut up."??? Is that all you've got?

     

    So factory work wasn't your thing. At 20+K posts on AI, guess blabbering on the internet is more up your alley. Make any money at it?

     

    Oh I get it! That's how you came up with your nickname!

  • Reply 8 of 43
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,417member
    danielsw wrote: »

    "Oh, shut up."??? Is that all you've got?

    So factory work wasn't your thing. At 20+K posts on AI, guess blabbering on the internet is more up your alley. Make any money at it?

    Oh I get it! That's how you came up with your nickname!

    Blocked.
  • Reply 9 of 43
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,417member

    Oh, I'm not saying it's not hard, but you don't typically have factory explosions or spend the day breathing in toxic dust to die of black lung by 50. Even in the US coal mining is risky; in China it's an order of magnitude worse.

    And an iPhone factory is a lot quieter, I'd expect, than say, a car assembly plant or a metal stamping factory.

    Yes, I've been in factories in China. I've been in the ones that are very clean and well-managed and I've been in quite a few are subcontractors to the large clean suppliers. Those second and third tier suppliers are the ones with dangerous conditions and those that employ child labor. Don't get me wrong, I've also seen what is available as the alternative to factory work in China and the alternatives are often much worse. What's important for China is not that the factories are better than life on the farm, but that they are rapidly transitioning from a manufacturing economy to a consumer and services economy because of the power of capitalism (not to be confused with a free market economy). It'll be hard for the Chinese people to go back to anything resembling textbook Communism after this transition.
  • Reply 10 of 43
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Were there any articles mentioning who is making the ?Watch?

  • Reply 11 of 43
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DanielSW View Post

     



    Yours was not the best way of approaching factory work. And just because you weren't able to handle it, doesn't mean millions of others don't. We don't hear from the ones who actually enjoy it, at least for the fact that it's work that pays the bills and supports families.




    You criticize Spam but you didn't even read his post stating that his experience with factory work was, "dangerous, the work was mind-numbing and I became very depressed to the point where I'd go in for a full day of work, then leave having almost no memory of the entire day having passed." Maybe such work is enjoyable, but I know few people that aspire to this type of work as a career, even if it does pay more.

  • Reply 12 of 43
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,371member
    Factory work is dreadful (I did it myself as a young person). The place I worked was dangerous, the work was mind-numbing and I became very depressed to the point where I'd go in for a full day of work, then leave having almost no memory of the entire day having passed. It was awful. And here's the thing: This was in the US, not China!

    What do you do today, did you ever think your early experience made you into what you are today and drove you to do something better.

    I know for me, I am much more successful than my parents because my dad made me do those crap jobs so I would not want to do them later in life. However, I worked with people who have no ambition to do anything more.

    I will tell you most of the people in china came from the country side looking to do something more than working in a field. If you think working in a factory doing the same thing day after day is hard work you never worked on a Farm. I did, and it was the hardest work I ever did. I was come home eat diner and go to bed only to wake up the next day and do it all over again.


    Most of these works in China are happy not to be working on a farm anymore.
  • Reply 13 of 43
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,371member
    You know those Foxconn pictures above remind me of the College campus. Kids are force to live together and have to make all their stuff fit in a small space, and they are force to studies all hours of the day and eat crappy dorm foods, and those who can not hack it kill themselves. Oh my, i just realize we should outlaw Colleges since they drive our youth to kill themselves because they actually have to work to make themselves better.
  • Reply 14 of 43
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,378member

    I think the reason why there's such criticism of factories like Foxconn is because of the perception that poorly-paid people are working under far less than ideal conditions to make products primarily for rich westerners.   Today, you could probably add that they're making products for rich "easterners", since Apple's sales in China are apparently quite good.

     

    Let's say that working in a Foxconn factory is about equivalent to working in a Detroit auto factory in 1955, union membership aside.   Considering where China is in developing their economy and creating a huge middle-class, is that so bad?   And I would think that there's far less physical exertion building these products than building cars.   Although China's economy is slowing down, if China makes as much progress in the next 20 years as they've made in the last 20, most Chinese workers will do quite well in the coming years. 

     

    Also, I don't think one can use U.S. or European pay standards to evaluate how those workers are being paid.   The real question is how many hours do those workers have to put in to acquire a given consumer product, housing, medical care, etc. 

     

    I think the biggest issue for those workers is that they have to live in dormitories at the factory.   If the factory was situated at a place where the workers had their own apartments or homes or could live with their families, I think they'd be able to live much happier lives.   How does one even have a serious relationship or start a family if they're living in a dorm?     China would do well to create housing for those 140,000 workers near the factory that would enable them to live realistic lives.   

     

    And while they do put in long hours compared to the 40-hour week, there have been many times in my career where I've worked 60 hour weeks (or more).   The summer I graduated high-school, I worked 90 hours a week, including traveling time. 

     

    My understanding is that at least a good portion of those workers would have been working on farms if they weren't working in that factory.  Given a choice, which would you rather do?   I'd choose the factory.  

     

    But having said all that, I think that Foxconn and other factories like it should be under constant pressure to improve the lives of their workers.   If that means slightly higher prices for Apple's products or lower margins for Apple, even if that hurts the stock a bit, so be it.   (I'm sure the usual suspects will state quite the opposite.)  

  • Reply 15 of 43
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,417member
    maestro64 wrote: »
    What do you do today, did you ever think your early experience made you into what you are today and drove you to do something better.

    I know for me, I am much more successful than my parents because my dad made me do those crap jobs so I would not want to do them later in life. However, I worked with people who have no ambition to do anything more.

    I will tell you most of the people in china came from the country side looking to do something more than working in a field. If you think working in a factory doing the same thing day after day is hard work you never worked on a Farm. I did, and it was the hardest work I ever did. I was come home eat diner and go to bed only to wake up the next day and do it all over again.


    Most of these works in China are happy not to be working on a farm anymore.

    Factory work absolutely drove me to work harder and I vowed to never work in a factory again. I'd credit that terrible experience as a defining moment in my life.
  • Reply 16 of 43
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,417member
    zoetmb wrote: »
    I think the reason why there's such criticism of factories like Foxconn is because of the perception that poorly-paid people are working under far less than ideal conditions to make products primarily for rich westerners.   Today, you could probably add that they're making products for rich "easterners", since Apple's sales in China are apparently quite good.

    Let's say that working in a Foxconn factory is about equivalent to working in a Detroit auto factory in 1955, union membership aside.   Considering where China is in developing their economy and creating a huge middle-class, is that so bad?   And I would think that there's far less physical exertion building these products than building cars.   Although China's economy is slowing down, if China makes as much progress in the next 20 years as they've made in the last 20, most Chinese workers will do quite well in the coming years. 

    Also, I don't think one can use U.S. or European pay standards to evaluate how those workers are being paid.   The real question is how many hours do those workers have to put in to acquire a given consumer product, housing, medical care, etc. 

    I think the biggest issue for those workers is that they have to live in dormitories at the factory.   If the factory was situated at a place where the workers had their own apartments or homes or could live with their families, I think they'd be able to live much happier lives.   How does one even have a serious relationship or start a family if they're living in a dorm?     China would do well to create housing for those 140,000 workers near the factory that would enable them to live realistic lives.   

    And while they do put in long hours compared to the 40-hour week, there have been many times in my career where I've worked 60 hour weeks (or more).   The summer I graduated high-school, I worked 90 hours a week, including traveling time. 

    My understanding is that at least a good portion of those workers would have been working on farms if they weren't working in that factory.  Given a choice, which would you rather do?   I'd choose the factory.  

    But having said all that, I think that Foxconn and other factories like it should be under constant pressure to improve the lives of their workers.   If that means slightly higher prices for Apple's products or lower margins for Apple, even if that hurts the stock a bit, so be it.   (I'm sure the usual suspects will state quite the opposite.)  

    Food and housing are subsidized in these factories, that's why people stay there. It's also because many of the workers travel to the cities from far away in the countryside.
  • Reply 17 of 43
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,371member
    Factory work absolutely drove me to work harder and I vowed to never work in a factory again. I'd credit that terrible experience as a defining moment in my life.

    See you a better person, but not everyone had the ability to do better things with their lives. But we have a bunch of people running around thinking it bad to work hard and that no one should have to work like that that everyone should be given jobs which only requires them to think and never lift a finger. Those people are winning by the way, I recently been tour some US factories and the only people working there are very old and if you ask them why they said the kids or young adults come in and as soon as the realize they actually have to work hard they quit.

    Do not worry hard factory work in the US will not be here much longer since no one want to work in them anymore.
  • Reply 18 of 43
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,417member
    maestro64 wrote: »
    See you a better person, but not everyone had the ability to do better things with their lives. But we have a bunch of people running around thinking it bad to work hard and that no one should have to work like that that everyone should be given jobs which only requires them to think and never lift a finger. Those people are winning by the way, I recently been tour some US factories and the only people working there are very old and if you ask them why they said the kids or young adults come in and as soon as the realize they actually have to work hard they quit.

    Do not worry hard factory work in the US will not be here much longer since no one want to work in them anymore.

    I'm quite confident that over the next 20 years it will become economically advantageous to employ general purpose robots in place of almost all low-level laborers in the US first, then even in China and other countries. Manual labor will become a thing people no longer participate in, except as sport or as a recreational activity.
  • Reply 19 of 43
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,371member
    I'm quite confident that over the next 20 years it will become economically advantageous to employ general purpose robots in place of almost all low-level laborers in the US first, then even in China and other countries. Manual labor will become a thing people no longer participate in, except as sport or as a recreational activity.

    Actually, the reason GE never off shored their Light Bulb production was due to the fact it was completely hands off and moving off shore meant higher labor costs. With that said in China automation is illegal unless you can prove a human can not do it, and I do not believe that will change. China wants to keep as many people employed as they can. Busy hands keep people from thinking about what they do not have.

    Also automation only make sense when you make the exact same thing over and over again and nothing changes, Automation only works as long as the work is predictable Human still do far better in non repetitive work.

    However, if people are not smart enough to think, what kind of work do you foresee them doing. I sounds like you subscribe to what the Roman did, use the lesser class as entertainment for those who can use their brains.
  • Reply 20 of 43
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

     

    That perception of a 'soulless megacorp' exists mostly among illiterates on the Left.

     

    I think of Foxconn as a great company that has made all our lives -- including those of the employees in Asia who, as prospectives, lined up around the block to work for them -- better.

     

    I honestly couldn't care less what the hypocritical ignoramuses say on this issue, although it would be less hypocritical on their part if they typed their comments on a computer/tablet/smartphone that was not assembled by the likes of Foxconn.

     

    That said, could/should Foxconn continuously strive to do better? Of course. So could Apple. So could all of us.


     

    Really, "illiterate" on the left...  Kinda a pointless ad hominem attack, especially since the states with the worse education are all GOP led! Most militant environmental and labor activists that I have seen are university and college graduates in non STEM fields (like most Americans that graduate).

     

    You may question their motives,  their reasoning and even their tactics (especially always targeting Apple when workers building their products are probably off than any other workers in factories in China), but it is without question that pressure on Apple to improve things have led to better lives for those workers (and workers in other factories not building Apple products).

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