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In Xhengzhou, Thousands Vie For Foxconn Jobs 386

Posted by timothy
from the surely-they'd-prefer-the-farms-oh-wait dept.
hypnosec writes "Foxconn is supposedly looking to enhance its workforce in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou and despite the less-than-satisfactory working conditions in the company, thousands of aspirants are lining up for jobs in its factories. Not caring about the harsh working conditions at Foxconn, thousands of people congregated outside a labor office in Zhengzhou, the largest city of Henan province in North central China, impatiently waiting for a chance to work at Foxconn. Foxconn, which is engaged in assembling iPhones and iPads for Apple, is planning to hire an additional 100000 employees as it is aiming at augmenting its iPhone production."
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In Xhengzhou, Thousands Vie For Foxconn Jobs

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  • Foxconn suicides (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bonch (38532) * on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:44PM (#38905325)

    I don't get the exclusive association between Apple and Foxconn presented by the tech press. Foxconn is the world's largest electronics manufacturer and makes products for Dell, Sony, Motorola, Nintendo, Nokia, Microsoft, HP, and pretty much every other major computer-related company. The fact they're the largest also means that there really isn't much of an option for companies like Dell or Apple to stop using Foxconn, because nobody else can assemble products at the volume required.

    The Foxconn suicides [wikipedia.org] that originally drew so much media attention were the result of several external factors including several labor strikes and poor economic conditions throughout China in 2010. The working conditions are actually comparatively good for Chinese factories, and the suicide rate is less than that of the general population, but the idea of an industry darling like Apple using "slave labor" to make its products was a narrative too juicy for the media to ignore.

    Though investigations did find overtime and other managerial abuses by Foxconn (making them not unlike Walmart), it's amusing to see thousands lining up to work there in contradiction to the extremely negative portrayal by the Western media such as that offered by the first linked article in the summary.

    • by Microlith (54737) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:48PM (#38905375)

      Because Apple is their highest profile customer. They're raking in massive profits while utilizing a company that leverages the low pay of Chinese laborers and the lack of real labor laws, which has had some high profile incidents.

      Thousands line up to work there because there are billions of people in the country who are increasingly being displaced and are poor, and need anything as a source of income. Doesn't mean it's a good job, just that it's a job.

      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:11PM (#38905805)

        They charge "Made in the US" prices but use Chinese labour. No surprise that draws some attention. Also they seem to want to deflect attention from it. On their boxes they say really prominently "Designed by Apple in California". On the device where there's the required "made in" sticker they prefix it with "Designed by Apple in California".

        • by aiken_d (127097) <brooksNO@SPAMtangentry.com> on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:25PM (#38906049) Homepage

          Indeed. It's a shame that companies like Dell, HP, Asus, and HTC have to charge the same price for their "Made in the US" products that Apple charges for their Chinese-produced goods. /facepalm

        • by Roogna (9643)

          This may shock people, but dropping "Made in US" salaries on a percentage of a population that makes far less than that, won't actually raise the quality of life across the board in most cases. All it's really likely to do is cause massive inflation as people try to make money off these select people earning far more than everyone else. While at the same time all the people who -didn't- get an obscene raise suddenly can't even afford the cost of living.

          If we want to inflate a foreign nations salaries to m

      • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot&hackish,org> on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:17PM (#38905899)

        Apple also has an image/style and a customer demographic that cares about that image. Lots of PC manufacturers have an image vaguely like Wal-Mart: boring, boxy, of mediocre quality. Those kinds of companies are much less hurt by allegations like this than Apple, because it's already widely suspected that they're selling what amounts to a rebadged whitebox product that emerged from some Chinese factory in some complex, undisclosed manner. Apple, meanwhile, is supposed to be premium and hip!

        Sort of how Starbucks has felt a lot more pressured over fair-trade type stuff than, say, McDonalds has, even though McDonalds sells about as much coffee.

      • Re:Foxconn suicides (Score:4, Interesting)

        by iggymanz (596061) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:23PM (#38906029)

        Apple's value is just "paper". I work at a VAR for primarily data center customers. So I think HP and IBM their highest profile customers, How is this any different for those highest profile companies?

    • I don't get why people would be particularly concerned about horrible working conditions at this particular company. Factories in mainland China aren't known for having what we'd consider great working conditions in the West. This one doesn't strike me as especially bad, it's just associated with some more famous companies.
      • by Moheeheeko (1682914) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:00PM (#38905571)
        I think it boils down to a couple facts, the first being that apple manufactured their products in the USA for years and still made good money, but now that they are in China they charge the same prices for the goods, but pay a fraction to have them made, litterally making billions (1 billion a week in the last quarter IIRC). On top of that I personally think that people are realising the irony that Apple products are generally associated with the kind of people who boycot things like this.
        • None of what you describe is unique to Apple. If you want electronics made, China is the one of the few places to do it regardless of what price you want to charge.
    • Re:Foxconn suicides (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Riceballsan (816702) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:55PM (#38905479)
      I agree with you wholeheartedly on the apple connection to foxcon. It is close to the entire electronics industry to blame. I disagree with your statements on the conditions not being horrific. 36 hour shifts wages under a couple bucks an hour, living and working in the same place, jail time for mentioning the idea of a union etc... The long lines is because china is just so screwed up that these horrific conditions, are the best they can do.
    • by mapkinase (958129)

      >it's amusing to see thousands lining up to work there in contradiction to the extremely negative portrayal by the Western media

      It's the other way around or you are making a comical reversal

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:04PM (#38905675) Journal
      While you may have a point that Apple is not the only company to point the finger at, I am amazed at the volume of iProducts that Apple moves and how quickly they move it. I had to order my Samsung Galaxy Nexus after driving from store to store to find out that they were sold out yet my friend was able to walk into a store after work and pick up the latest iPhone with no problem. How does this happen?

      I'm reminded of a recent Slashdot article [slashdot.org] that had an interesting passage to me:

      Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

      A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

      “The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

      This raised many questions in my mind. Like whether or not other Chinese companies would respond with such force to a request? Is it just because Apple is so big that Foxconn takes these extreme measures? Are Foxconn employees experiencing longer shifts because of these pressures from Apple and, ultimately, Apple consumers?

      You're also missing a point that I found interesting from the This American Life episode on these plants. One group had gone to a village that did not have a Foxconn plant but was due to get one. They looked at the village and the quality of life of the people. It wasn't pretty. After the plant opened, after people got the jobs and after electricity and running water were forcefully brought for the purpose of the plant, life improved. Sure, pollution got worse but the group couldn't argue with people being better fed, having electricity and (more) potable water. Is this a good argument for Foxconn and Apple? I don't think so but it's an ethics issue and I think you'll find a lot of people are divided on this issue.

      Closer to home for me, people from West Virginia have been attacking the EPA for stopping mountaintop mining in their state. They say that the EPA is halting job creation and go on and on about how horrible the EPA is. It's so odd to me because this state is rife with environmental problems left over from just this mining and when there was no EPA and no regulations on the state level, chemical companies ran rampant in West Virginia. I wouldn't drink the groundwater there if my life depended on it now. And what was the reason for this? To give a few generations of jobs and stoke the smokestacks of the industrial USA? Sure ... but at what future and permanent and irreversible cost?

      • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:23PM (#38906021)

        It's so odd to me because this state is rife with environmental problems left over from just this mining and when there was no EPA and no regulations on the state level, chemical companies ran rampant in West Virginia.

        The most interesting analogy for me are the communists in Russia: a lot of the people voting for the communists now have actually first-hand experience of what the old-school communists were like, and what life was like under them. To them, that life was better than what they have now. The only way that is possible is if they focus on only the good parts, and completely forget the bad parts. There's a lot of research going into why people are making these sorts of decisions. It's not entirely surprising that people behave this way. It still doesn't make right, optimal or even in their own self-interest.

      • The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

        The question is is why? Why can't any american plant match that kind of speed? Is it because people in America want to do more in life than work? spend time with their families in their own living space, not have a cot at work? realize that it is not healthy for one person to work 80 - 100 hours a week with nothing to eat but tea and biscuits? Even if all are true, is this wrong? and if it's true why isn't china like this?

        • and if it's true why isn't china like this?

          Cultural. In China, and most of the far east, the parents will scrimp and save so their kids can go to the best school they can afford, the idea being the kid(s) will get a nice job with high pay and in return, help mom and dad by sending money back.

          That and a status thing. "My child works for (XYZ Company) and is Vice -President of cutting jobs. He might be President next year!"

          You have to remember, it's the little things in Asian countries that
        • Why Not America. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by andersh (229403) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:51PM (#38906523)

          To quote "Business Insider" magazine:

          Apple doesn't build iPhones in the United States, in other words, because there is no longer an ecosystem here to support that manufacturing. There's no supply chain, there aren't enough super-low-cost workers, and there are not enough mid-level engineers.

          The real reasons Apple makes iPhones in China, therefore, are as follows:

          - Most of the components of iPhones and iPads--the supply chain--are now manufactured in China, so assembling the phones half-a-world away would create huge logistical challenges. It would also reduce flexibility--the ability to switch easily from one component supplier or manufacturer to another.

          - China's factories are now far bigger and more nimble than those in the United States. They can hire (and fire) tens of thousands of workers practically overnight. Because so many of the workers live on-site, they can also press them into service at a moment's notice. And they can change production practices and speeds extremely rapidly.

          - China now has a far bigger supply of appropriately-qualified engineers than the U.S. does--folks with the technical skills necessary to build complex gadgets but not so credentialed that they cost too much.
          And, lastly, China's workforce is much hungrier and more frugal than many of their counterparts in the United States.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift...

        Is it just because Apple is so big that Foxconn takes these extreme measures?"

        It's probably because of weak labor laws in China.

        “The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

        Nor

      • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @04:13PM (#38906869) Homepage

        Closer to home for me, people from West Virginia have been attacking the EPA for stopping mountaintop mining in their state. They say that the EPA is halting job creation and go on and on about how horrible the EPA is. It's so odd to me because this state is rife with environmental problems left over from just this mining and when there was no EPA and no regulations on the state level, chemical companies ran rampant in West Virginia. I wouldn't drink the groundwater there if my life depended on it now. And what was the reason for this? To give a few generations of jobs and stoke the smokestacks of the industrial USA? Sure ... but at what future and permanent and irreversible cost?

        The essential problem is that people mostly think in the short term. We have the ability to make long term plans, but even the most disciplined of us have a very hard time ignoring short term goals in favor of long term planning. All of us can do it, and some of us are better at it than others, but the temptation to take care of short term problem at the expense of long term success is always there.

        The is especially true when you're talking about people who are literally in a subsistence barely surviving mode. It's easy for me to look at the environmental impact of mountaintop mining and say to a miner, "What are you doing? You're destroying the land, poisoning yourself, poisoning your kids. How can you do this?" To him though, he's *feeding* his kids. The chance that his kids might get sick at sometime in the distant future is not nearly as scary to him as the certainty that they won't get enough to eat right now if he doesn't work.

        The other problem is one of trust. For a lot of cultural and educational reasons, people in these rural towns trust the local company owners or managers more than the faceless government regulators. If the company says what they're doing is safe (and it's feeding my kids), who is this outside regulator to come in and say otherwise? They typically have seen Erin Brockovich, they don't read environmental studies. One of the first problems with getting anything done about some these environmental disasters is always getting people to believe that the company would *do* something like that.

    • by TheLink (130905)

      Because Apple says stuff like this: http://apple.slashdot.org/story/12/01/22/0445233/how-the-us-lost-out-on-iphone-work [slashdot.org]

      Why can't that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.
      Mr. Jobs's reply was unambiguous. "Those jobs aren't coming back," he said, according to another dinner guest.

      'You're headed for a one-term presidency,' Jobs told Obama at the outset. To prevent that, he said, the administration needed to be a lot more business-friendly. He described how easy it was to build a factory in China, and said that it was almost impossible to do so these days in America, largely because of regulations and unnecessary costs

      Dell execs in contrast just say boring/"content free" stuff like:

      "Extending our relationship with Foxconn allows us to help customers grow and succeed by making the most of their IT investments, in a way they've come to expect from Dell," said Sean Corkery, vice president of Dell's supply-chain operations.

      "We expect our suppliers to employ the same high standards we do in our own facilities. We enforce these standards through a variety of tools, including the Electronics Industry code of conduct, business reviews with suppliers, self-assessments and audits."

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Because Apple execs brag about Foxconn rousing servants from bed in the middle of the night, handing them a cup of tea and a biscuit, and forcing them to work a 12 hour shift?

    • Re:Foxconn suicides (Score:5, Informative)

      by beelsebob (529313) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @04:08PM (#38906799)

      I don't get the fuss at all:

      Foxconn suicide rate: 3 per 100,000.
      US suicide rate: 10 per 100,000.
      Chinese average suicide rate: 35 per 100,000.

      Foxconn fatal work accident rate: 3.5 per 100,000.
      US fatal work accident rate: 3.5 per 100,000.

      Foxconn wage: $17 per day.
      Chinese average wage: $5 per day.

      The chinese are vying for these jobs because the working conditions are great by any measure of what they might get. The wage may seem low to you or I, but when you consider that the economy around there is such that it makes these people pretty bloody rich, it's actually rather good.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        Foxconn suicide rate: 3 per 100,000.
        US suicide rate: 10 per 100,000.
        Chinese average suicide rate: 35 per 100,000.

        Sigh, break those three down by age group and and economic circumstance.

        You're comparing the suicide rates in two nations which includes the two largest groups (11-17 and 75+) to one demographic that is traditionally the lowest suicide rate.

        If you're going to compare suicide rates, compare like for like. Teen and elderly are the biggest age brackets for suicides in both western and eastern nations.

        Foxconn wage: $17 per day.
        Chinese average wage: $5 per day.

        So you'd like to get paid $17 a day?

        I think all you've proven here is that Chinese people are desperat

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday February 02, 2012 @04:16PM (#38906925) Homepage Journal

      The working conditions are actually comparatively good for Chinese factories, and the suicide rate is less than that of the general population, but the idea of an industry darling like Apple using "slave labor" to make its products was a narrative too juicy for the media to ignore.

      What bullshit. A very small percentage of people outside of the Foxconn factory actually know how bad those working conditions are. The suicides are just a small part of the scandal. There are deaths due to overwork. Not long ago, there was one worker who died after a 36 hour shift.

      And the workers live at the factory, in dormitories, 16 beds to a 12'x12' room. The beds are stacked high like cordwood, with areas between the stacks of beds so narrow that a regular-sized Westerner couldn't fit through them. The dormitory rooms where these workers are warehoused have covered by the same surveillance cameras that are used on the factory floor to monitor the workers, making sure they don't take a minute to rest. There are workers as young as 13 in these factories who get no schooling beyond whatever training they need to perform their function. Even though most of the jobs at Foxconn could be done by automated assembly, it's actually cheaper to pay the little bit they pay to workers than it is to buy and maintain the machines. Workers who go to work at Foxconn from areas outside of Shenzhen don't expect to ever see their families again unless they also come to work at Foxconn.

      I'm as guilty as any of eagerly buying products that contain hardware made in these factories. Unfortunately, if you want to use technology, there is no choice. But you know who does have a choice? Apple. Dell. Sony, etc.

      And it's not exactly like Apple is even passing along the savings they get in having such inhuman working conditions. That saving is passed along to their very happy shareholders.

      I'm not an Apple shareholder anymore, but I was. Apple stock paid for my daughter's undergraduate education and plumped up my family's nest egg quite nicely. But the more I learned about what's going on in the factories where the Apple products are made, the less I felt I could profit from their business model. I no longer respect Apple, no matter how shiny and slick their products. They are a shit corporation in my eyes now. Apple is one of the biggest, most successful companies in the world, and that position gives them the power to actually change some of the catastrophic conditions at the factories where their products are made, but they don't do that, because it might mean their shareholders would have to accept a percent or two less in profits, which would still leave them quite happy, but for some people, there is no bottom to their greed. There is no "enough".

      Maybe someday I'll decide I can no longer enjoy products that come from factories where human beings are treated this way, and given no choice except to go back home and starve and have their families starve, but I'm not there yet, because I don't really have much choice. It doesn't make me feel much better to realize I have little choice when I think of the lack of choices that the workers at Foxconn have. And the only way I'll ever get that choice is if some company actually steps up and decides not to participate in human trafficking and starts making their products in a way that does not have such a high human cost. And yes, I will gladly pay more for such products. Hell yes, I will pay more for such products.

  • "Less than satisfactory" according to white, paternalistic Americans who frequent Whole Foods.

    Sorry to stereotype here, but let the Chinese figure out what is satisfactory or not.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:54PM (#38905463) Homepage Journal

      "Less than satisfactory" according to white, paternalistic Americans who frequent Whole Foods.

      Sorry to stereotype here, but let the Chinese figure out what is satisfactory or not.

      And form trade unions, have their skulls cracked by the state enforcers, etc. It's all part of energing as an industrial nation.

      • by Rockoon (1252108) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:07PM (#38905719)
        Exactly.

        To put things in perspective, China's GDP/Capita is about equal to what the United States had 120 years ago in 1890. If you compare the various metrics of 1890 United States with 2012 China, the people of China are doing very well for themselves.

        The people of China want a better life for themselves and they are willing to work to get it. This one company employs a million people and competes within the labor market to get them, which is why Foxconn is one of the best employers to work for in China. Nobody is holding a gun to the heads of these employees, its quite the contrary in spite of what Americas mainstream media wants to tell us.
    • by mister_playboy (1474163) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:57PM (#38905507)

      Cultural relativism has many positive uses, but using it to give a pass to international labor exploitation isn't one of them.

      There are some folks would like nothing more than to get us desperate enough to be exploited in a similar way right here at home.

      • by thisnamestoolong (1584383) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:30PM (#38906147)
        This. I am so sick and tired of supposedly progressive people using tolerance to excuse horrific behaviors of other people around the globe. Yes, we do need to be tolerant of the cultures of others. If another culture wants to eat dogs, so what? We eat cows and pigs. Unfortunately, many people on the left, most of whom are otherwise quite intelligent and have very finely tuned moral compasses, take this argument WAY too far. Muslims want to force their women to dress in cloth bags? Heeey, who are we to say that we're better than they are? Tribes in Africa removing the clitorises of their little girls? Well, you know, they just do things a little bit differently... It is bullshit. We can (and need to) respect the rights of other cultures to do things in their own way, but that doesn't mean that there is no valid concept of universal morality. It is ALWAYS wrong to treat one gender/class/race as less than human. I don't care how many generations of your ancestors did it that way, or what your holy book says. This does not fall afoul of our need to respect cultural differences, it is simply a fulfillment of our obligation to our fellow human beings.
    • by Tailhook (98486)

      paternalistic Americans who frequent Whole Foods

      ...and express their paternalism on the iPhones/Pads they tote around.

      Whatever. Just don't expect me to pay western regulatory and wage costs for my iPhone 5. That could lead to filthy manufacturing somewhere in N. America!

    • by DeadDecoy (877617)
      That seems rather shortsighted. If companies can only compete due to the exploitation of a disenfranchised population, they'll move most of their jobs to that location and argue for the same conditions in the places they moved from. Consequently, you won't be able to make a livable wage because some poor sod somewhere else can do it for fractions of a penny on the dollar. The solution is not to ship back jobs or block of trade but to impose some kind of tariff on companies that violate some standardized not
    • Do you believe the Chinese workers are deciding freely?

      What do you think would happen if they organized for better working conditions?

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:53PM (#38905443)

    This used to be common in America too. Young people would line up around the block to work in slaughterhouses, textile mills, etc. They, being young, thought themselves invincible. They thought they could handle whatever was thrown at them, and work their way out of poverty. They were wrong.

    They'd be used up, and thrown away like chaff, and a new batch of starry-eyed youngsters would be brought in.

    As long as workers are disorganized, businesses will play them against each other, and the workers will suffer for it.

    • People in the US still do this. It's just that rather than manual labor being considered a respectable job for anyone, people look down on it now. Kids who grow up here treat jobs with harsh conditions like they're something to be totally ashamed of, and then let the poor and the immigrant populations handle it.
    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:02PM (#38905643) Homepage

      Required reading on this very subject: Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, which was mostly about precisely this phenomenon in Chicago.

      • As Sinclair noted, the reason that people then demanded change in Chicago meat packing wasn't the treatment of the workforce; it was their fear that they would die of eating infected meat. No such risk with iPhones, so there is no way of limiting the exploitation.
        • Yes, the story of The Jungle is a sad story in American History. While it did improve the meatpacking industry, the response by the average American had nothing to do with the deplorable treatment of the workers but "I am eating WHAT?!" People, at the end of the day, are only interested in their own personal self-interest. This is a sad, but true, fact that has haunted us through all of history.
      • by superwiz (655733)
        But The Jungle was a fictional account. Sinclair was a Communist -- openly so. He was a member of the Socialist party for decades. While the abuses he described most likely did take place, the frequency of their occurrence was most likely exaggerated for propaganda purposes and, of course, for dramatic literary effect.
    • by mapkinase (958129)

      >As long as workers are disorganized

      and as long as both sides have a choice.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:55PM (#38905481)

    I first want to make clear that I am not "defending" Foxconn by any means. They definitely have room for improvement, as does every other company. But to say that working conditions at Foxconn are "less-than-satisfactory" and "harsh" is clearly biased.

    Relative to most other manufacturing companies in China, Foxconn is actually one of the companies that treats is employees well in that they pay their employees on time, pay overtime when it is due, and provide perks for many of their workers (including rent-free accommodations, meals, entertainment, etc.). Because of that, Foxconn is actually a desirable place to work in China considering the alternatives. Foxconn is providing an opportunity to make a livable wage for millions of people in China.

    Again, I am not defending Foxconn, but it really irks me to see people here blast Foxconn for poor working conditions when the vast majority of them have never been to Asia. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. But I really wish people would be more objective in their assessments of the situation.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      I've been to factories across Asia for my job, and you are right that Foxconn is better (or at least no worse) than most. But the conditions are still very bad. And what's worse is that a lot of very powerful people are trying quite hard to bring our working conditions, here in the US, down to that level. Call it selfish, but at the end of the day, most people care more about themselves and their loved ones than some people they'll never meet on the other side of the globe.

      We as a society should be worki

  • by taiwanjohn (103839) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:56PM (#38905501)

    In Xhengzhou, Thousands Vie For Foxconn Jobs

    I know the keys are right next to each other on the keyboard, but "Xhengzhou" is simply not possible in the Chinese spelling system. You got it right in the summary (Zhengzhou), but the headline is just nutty.

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:57PM (#38905521) Homepage

    Plantation slavery was not much different from the way these workers live in their dormitories. I would hazard a guess that slave owners actually generally cared about their slaves significantly more than Apple and FoxConn care about these workers. In fact, the very fact that workers aren't even allowed to socialize in their dormitories suggests to me that on balance, plantation slaves might have actually had more freedom since they were free to form families (who admittedly could be sold like slaves), socialize and often free to work for money once their field work was done.

    I say this not to defend plantation slavery as anything objectively good, but to note the irony that someone who defends FoxConn's treatment of workers while holding views antagonistic toward actual plantation slavery is being very hypocritical because on balance, these workers have it even worse. I'm white and if I had to choose between being a field slave in the South vs working under the conditions the FoxConn workers do with the sort of future that awaits them, hands down I'd choose to be a slave. At least then the master's tyranny would end at sun down.

    • The part of slavery that is fundamentally wrong isn't hard work and poor conditions. It's owning another human being as property. It's not having the freedom to pursue your own destiny. Foxconn workers have the freedom to quit their jobs if they choose to. Slaves do not.
    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot&hackish,org> on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:22PM (#38906009)

      I'd say it's closer to 1880s-1890s American "company towns", like mining encampments where the mining company owned all the housing and the local store. I agree it's not good, but there are not-good historical parallels that don't require hyperbole.

    • by cartman (18204) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:26PM (#38906067)

      I say this not to defend plantation slavery as anything objectively good, but to note the irony that someone who defends FoxConn's treatment of workers while holding views antagonistic toward actual plantation slavery is being very hypocritical because on balance, these workers have it even worse. I'm white and if I had to choose between being a field slave in the South vs working under the conditions the FoxConn workers do with the sort of future that awaits them, hands down I'd choose to be a slave. At least then the master's tyranny would end at sun down.

      You're very mistaken about the relative conditions of plantation slavery compared to developing countries' low-wage labor. Plantation slaves made no money whatsoever, and their imputed income from consumption was certainly less than 10% of the $400/mo which Foxconn workers earn. In addition, plantation slaves were frequently beaten severely for non-performance. Most of the slaves did not even survive the journey to the new world, because of harsh conditions on the slave ships. Those who did survive and had the misfortune to end up in the Carribean, usually lived about 5 additional years because of overwork.

      Your notion that plantation slave owners "cared more" about their slaves is absurdly incorrect. In many places of the carribbean, the ratio of freemen to slaves was something like 1:10, which posed the constant risk of violent slave rebellion, so violent suppression was necessary and continuous. The slave owners did not "care" about their slaves as they generally worked them to death within 5 years.

      As an aside, I've noticed that much criticism of the industrial revolution and of industrial development more generally, is based upon extraordinary over-estimation of the quality of life before the industrial development. There is a great deal of romanticizing (especially on the far left) of subsistence-farming life, of medieval conditions, of village agriculture, and (in this case) of plantation slavery, of all things. All of those modes of life imply an annual income of $300-$400 and severe back-breaking physical labor.

      On every step of the way to industrial development, conditions for workers are better than they were previously. The Chinese people lining up for these jobs are not stupid. They are aware that the alternative is village agriculture, and that village agriculture work is harder and far worse paid.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Apparently, the parent poster got the white-washed version of what plantation slavery actually entailed. The real version of slavery does not really compare favorably with the lives of Foxconn workers:

      * Slaves were routinely beaten and whipped. They were also occasionally killed, but this was rare because that would cost the master money to replace them.
      * Slaves who attempted to leave the plantation would be hunted down and either returned by force (where they'd be beaten / whipped / killed

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 02, 2012 @02:58PM (#38905559)

    The increasingly number of stories on the poor working conditions in China are frustrating, because they are so dense. It would be much more honest to compare Foxconn to other Chinese factories, rather than to the practically-no-longer-existing factories in the Western world. It would make for a less exciting story - and probably also a less dualistic one: I'm afraid if the discourse is not framed in terms of bad villains (Foxconn and Apple) leagued to exploit the poor good guys (the defenseless Chinese peasants), it is less easy to stimulate discussion. But this is all stuff that cleverer people have said before me, why do we keep rehashing it?

    • Interesting point. Who are we in the western world to talk about working conditions in factories like these, when we barely have manufacturing of this type around, and are buying products from these companies?

      Don't know how I feel about having this pointed out, but it's certainly food for thought.

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:01PM (#38905607)

    When people are starving to death, living in areas so polluted by heavy metals that the chinese govt denies the who access to take soil samples, and where there is such a sickeningly huge divide between wealthy and poor, it should come as no surprise that people will rush from dieing of hunger and poisoning to dieing of overwork and poisoning.

    The implied "look, thousands line up for these slave labor positons, so they can't be as bad as everyone says! So, its OK to buy chinese made things!" Is so morally destitute and wrong it defies reason.

    Newsflash fuckers. Just because people are lining up to try to crawl their way out of the chinese agricultural infrastructure where they live in straw huts and lack basic sanitation, doesn't make the hellholes they are scambling to get to any less hellish.

    • "When people are starving to death, living in areas so polluted by heavy metals that the chinese govt denies the who access to take soil samples ..."

      The who is taking soil samples now? I thought it was the beatles.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:08PM (#38905753)

    When is the last time anyone heard that phrase in the U.S.?

  • by husker_man (473297) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:13PM (#38905839)
    One summer when I was 15, I worked on a farm/ranch in western Nebraska. I worked twelve-hour days six days a week harvesting hay, helping out with dehorning/deballing of steers (not a fun task!), and general farm maintenance activities. Only day off was on Sundays. It was a hot, hard, smelly job. I personally enjoyed it (I treated it like an extended Boy Scout Summer Camp that I got paid for), but the bulk of the other teens out there complained and found it far too hard for them.

    If you compare the general conditions of the Foxconn factories to the working conditions in the rural countryside, I would be willing to bet that it's far better to be a Foxconn employee than a farm worker (or other such rural worker). And honestly, if you don't have a job in China (for all their vaunted "Socialist" (socialist in name only, IMHO)) it's better than starving. It probably does amount to slavery, unfortunately.
    • by arose (644256) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:28PM (#38906105)
      I bet you had the "luxury" of talking to your fellow coworkers and maybe, maybe even some protective gear. You certainly weren't guaranteed to fuck up your hands by doing the same exact thing over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over. Though I do conceede that your bed might have resembled a coffin as well...
  • Endorsed by corporations everywhere in the name of "globalization".
  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:22PM (#38905995)
    As numerous as Foxcon's flaws are, they pale in comparison to the more numerous non-name contractors. The non-names break many more labor laws, pollution and safety regulations, and stiff wages. They bribe or have connections with the petty bureaucrats. They've been known to pack up machines on off-day Sunday and disappear leaving workers unpaid and unemployed. Everyone knows this is going on and make movies and write books about it. I've seen several. The workers know this a crave the established contractors. A new farm boy will do a couple stints at a no name and they qualify for a Foxcon. It takes time for the legal system and societal expectations to take firm root.
  • What an odd article title.

    It's not every day you see the verb "Vie" when you could use a slew of other terms to mean "strive for," but mostly "Vie" in French means "Live".

    A double entendre?

  • "Zhengzhou" not "Xhengzhou"

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

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