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Foxconn’s Apple Factories

New York Times Article about Foxconn’s Apple Factories

Background: Foxconn Technology Group is a Taiwanese company that contracts with Apple to make iPads and iPhones. In the mid–2000’s, several serious allegations of poor working conditions led Apple to review the labor practices at many Foxconn factories. These audits uncovered poor working conditions, reports of unpaid overtime, employees working far too many hours, and a rash of suicides brought on by work-related issues.

Apple and its main supplier, Foxconn, have improved working conditions at Chinese factories that make most of the world’s iPads and iPhones, according to auditors the companies enlisted to monitor the process, but tough tasks still lie ahead.

The Fair Labor Association said local laws would require the companies—which came under fire because of conditions at the plants blamed for a series of suicides in 2010—to reduce hours by almost a third by 2013 for the hundreds of thousands working in Foxconn plants across southern China. Foxconn said Wednesday it would continue to cut overtime, aiming for fewer than nine hours a week instead of the current 20, even though that could raise labor costs while making it difficult to attract workers.

“It is a challenge. When we reduce overtime it means we need to hire more people and implement more automation, more investment on robotic engineering. More workers also mean more dormitories and recreational facilities; it takes time,” said Louis Woo, special assistant to the chief executive of Foxconn.

“But I expect more loyalty from workers as a result, and then we can save more costs on recruitment and retainment,” he said. “Yield rates will also improve. Efficiency in terms of productivity, yield gain, retention and lower turnover rates should be able to improve next year.”

[…]

“A lot of workers have clearly come to Shenzhen to make as much money as they can in as short a period as they can, and overtime hours are very important in that calculation,” he said. Mr. Woo said Foxconn had been constantly telling workers about the importance of the quality of life and health.

“This is the thing we need to continue to communicate with workers, especially young migrant workers, that anyone who works more than a certain number of hours will feel tired and not well,” he said. “If we can improve the work environment and benefits, they can enjoy their life better.”

Source: Reuters. “Work Conditions Said to Improve at Apple Supplier.” The New York Times. August 22, 2012. Retrieved on January 10, 2015 from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/23/technology/23iht-apple23.html

Discussion Questions about New York Times Article about Foxconn’s Apple Factories

  1. What situation is this article describing? What are the issues that factory owners and workers need to address?
  2. How is this story similar to or different from labor issues in New York City in the early 20th century?
  3. Think back to the traditional Jewish text from Mishnah, Bava Metzia 7:1 that talks about treating workers according to the “custom of the land” (minhag hamakom)? What does this article teach us about the “custom of the land” in these Chinese technology plants from 2010–2013?
  4. As American citizens, do we have a responsibility to change labor practices in other countries? Why or why not?

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Foxconn’s Apple Factories." (Viewed on December 10, 2017) <https://jwa.org/node/22259>.

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