Several news outlets have reported today on the latest suicide at Taiwanese owned EMS company Foxconn. The latest suicide brings this year’s total to 11 at the southern China factory. Foxconn manufactures products for Apple, Dell, HP, Motorola and other companies. They have something like 800,000 workers. I won’t call them employees, because there is a difference. For years I’ve heard people talk about what a sweatshop Foxconn is, and now this. Foxconn’s solution? Have all the workers sign a pledge not to commit suicide!
Terry Gou, chairman of Foxconn’s parent company Hon Hai Precision, flew to Shenzhen aboard his private jet for a hastily arranged media tour after the latest suicide and said “I give my apologies for the impact this has had on society. I will do all I can to save lives” Does anyone believe it? I sure don’t.
Remember the uproar a few years back about Nike and the Malaysian sweatshops? From what I’m hearing, this makes that situation look small. How can Steve Jobs and Michael Dell look themselves in the mirror every morning knowing that they are supporting this crap, all in the interest of saving a few bucks or providing a better return to their stockholders? Yes, we as consumers should share a portion of the blame. We want the most profitable companies in our 401K or stock portfolio. It’s the WalMart syndrome again: give me the gizmos at the rock bottom price. Is there really no moral responsibility?
And for those of you who want to call me and anyone else who is outraged about this a liberal or naive, you can kiss my posterior. I am as much a fan of capitalist economics as the next guy, but I don’t believe it should be an excuse for this type of treatment. The people who work in the plants for Foxconn are really no different than indentured servants. They live in barracks with guards on the outside – not to keep people out, but to keep them in.
Is this really the way to bring Chinese society into the 21st century? This sort of treatment was common in industrialized England and America in the 19th and early 20th centuries. But just because we were guilty doesn’t mean that China has to repeat our mistakes.
I encourage all of you to learn more about this. You can start by reading Mike Buetow’s blog on our web site. There are lots of sources out there – just go to google and check out Foxconn for yourself. Of course if you live in China that won’t work for you.