Samsung's Factory Abuse Has Officially Gone Far Enough

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Now that labor watchdog groups have started complaining about the poor working conditions in Samsung's Chinese factories, maybe the South Korean electronics behemoth will make changes to the too-long hours and too-little pay we've known about for months. A September audit brought all that just-as-bad-as-Apple-and-Foxconn stuff — including 16-hour work days, with one day off per month — to the attention of the world and, apparently, to Samsun. Since then, the company seems to have done little to nothing to change the situation. Yesterday, the company made a statement saying that it is just now "designing, researching, and/or implementing corrective actions to address every violation that was identified," reported The Wall Street Journal's In-Soo Nam, a plan that brought on this latest rights-group pressure reported by Reuters today. With more scrutiny, perhaps we can expect reforms.

That's what happened with Apple and Foxconn, at least to some extent. The bad PR brought on by mass-suicide threats, the retracted This American Life story by Mike Daisey about the horrors of Foxconn — none of it really ended until Apple said it would dedicate money to making Foxconn a better place to work. But those changes only came after an onslaught of pressure from different entities for months. It took audits, and then reports about those audits, and then more labor group pressure and complaining, until, finally, Apple obliged. Fortunately for Samsung, its harsh labor story doesn't quite have the same reach as Apple's, probably because it isn't the richest company in America. Talking about the company with monster profits looking like a monster resonates more than the same story about a South Korean mutlinational conglomerate with less money doing just as horrible things. Sadly.

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Then again, Samsung doesn't want to get itself associated with Chinese dystopian labor factories, just as its number-one rival has risen above that — again, at least to some extent. So maybe that is pressure enough to get it to do something. The company claims it will look into and possibly implement new hiring practices, work hours, and overtime. Saying and doing are different, of course. So maybe we'll have to wait for another audit to see. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.