Somehow Foxconn has convinced the world that its treatment of workers isn't that bad. Sure, we've heard the stories from those on the inside, seen workers in their natural habitats, and we know all about the suicide nets. And yet, Foxconn has managed to turn its image around, allowing us to rationalize it, Apple, and our own obsession with iThings.
Here's how Foxconn's overlords spin it:
The wages aren't as bad as the worst wages imaginable. Foxconn workers make pitiable amounts of money, even by Chinese standards. Starting wages come in at less than $10 a day -- too low for the Chinese government to collect payroll tax. But not only has Foxconn distracted us from those abysmal rates, announcing across the board 16-25 percent raises last week, the company released a statement assuring observers that rates aren't as low as we think. “We have over 75 percent of the employees in the category of earning at least 2,200 RMB ($349/month) basic compensation standard. That means they are earning 13.75 RMB ($2.18) per hour. If they work overtime on the weekend, they will earn 27 RMB ($4.28) per hour," Foxconn told ABC News.
Sure, that is two times better than we initially thought. But, those wages still amounts to not enough to tax. And, it just adds up to an empty gesture. "The pay rise is useless," a worker named Xiang told Reuters. "We just pay more for other things."
The jobs are better than other crappy Chinese jobs. Chinese workers line up for these jobs by the thousands. The FLA basically called it a palace. Foxconn life is better than rural Chinese life. And, it's not even as bad as Nightline's Bill Weir made it look, who wrongly noted that a days work entails carving 6,000 iPad logos. It's only 3,000 iPad logos per-day, Apple explained. "Apple clarified that Zhou Xiao Ying couldn’t have been working a second shift since it would be impossible if she worked 8AM to 8PM, then worked 8PM to 8AM, and then worked her next day’s shift," explains ABC News.
But again, in perspective, a twelve hour shift stinks. Even if it's not slave labor, those on the inside have confirmed the utter boredom that comes with carving thousands of identical Apples. "It wasn't a very difficult job but you had to keep doing it without rest. It felt like there wasn't even time to breathe," one Foxconner told Reuters. "The supervisors are always watching you. The pressure was very great." With that come the physical and mental health risks. And, it's not just a suicide problem. Just yesterday a group of workers poisoned from working at Foxconn, petitioned the company to make needed changes. "If more people know about what we went through, Apple will feel pressured to change so other workers don’t have to suffer like we did," write Guo Rui-qiang and Jia Jing-chuan in their statement.
No, Apple won't. Because Foxconn has made just enough progress to make it look good enough to satisfy both Apple and its followers.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.