ABC put up a five minute taste of their Foxconn “iFactory” special, with the rest of the set to air tonight at 11:35 on their Nightline news program.
The program is being billed as an exclusive special “Inside Apple’s Magic Factory: Rare Look at Secret World.” Even in the preview the footage is rather extensive, showing the production process up close and the conditions workers must operate in. ABC’s was even granted access to the dormitories and interviews with production line workers.
While the extent to which Apple granted ABC access has yet to be seen, ABC didn’t find anything egregious as far as labor violations are concerned. However, the full special tonight could reveal additional details, violations, and an even deeper look into Apple’s massive production facilities, which up till now Apple has kept shrouded in mystery.
You can bet this would have never happened with Jobs at the helm. Check here for the preview
and tune in to ABC at 11:35 for the full special. We'll update with more info after the special.
The amount of access granted to ABC's camera crews and reporters turned out to be quite extensive, more so than I imagine, but just short of truly delving into the biggest question mark: the Foxconn workers psyche.
A few workers were given time to speak, but they briefly lamented on being tired, and wanting more pay. However, the social and emotional toll these jobs have on Foxconn's workers was never delved into. It was amazing to see a Foxconn exec explain away workers passing out on top of boxes in the few spare minutes they had after a meal break as a "Chinese Tradition."
Even more amazing are the hordes of hopeful workers that line up outside of Foxconn's recruiting center each morning in the hopes of being granted the opportunity to work inside the factories. One young man's comment that "I hear the work is hard, but I want the experience" and another young woman when asked about the suicides answers "I don't think it has much to do with the company." All of this for the chance to land a starting salary of $1.78/hr. The good news is 80% of the people who show up will be hired (many travel days by bus), and many will pay $17.50 a month to live in the cramped dormitory.
The lines remind me immediately of ration and labor lines found in America during the Great Depression, and during the Gilded-Age of American Industry. Scores of people lining up to receive minimal amounts of pay for an incredible amount of work just to gain "experience" and put food on the table to survive. America was built on the back of its labor force and China appears to be doing the same. However, China is letting corporations, and its manufacturing facilities exploit their labor force in the same way.
China will likely experience a Labor movement that makes the formation of Labor Unions in the United States look like peanuts in comparison. China is in the midst of a societal J-Curve. As poorer nations become increasingly developed their once distressed and exploited populace begins to taste a standard of living not afforded them before. They begin to see what other people in developed nations have, and realize they can have it to. This gradual realization eventually becomes and exponential explosion of demand resulting in a revolution (demonstrations have become increasingly frequent throughout the country). Unless China adopts a Syrian-like stance toward civil upheaval Apple and other companies will need to look elsewhere for cheap labor on a massive scale.
Still, the Fair Labor Association's Audit, paid for by Apple mind you, will be an interesting read. How does someone measure the labor practices of a company and it's manufacturers? Do they compare it to other developing nations, or do they compare it to other world super powers of manufacturing? Time will tell.