The FoxConn Suicides

I am not sure how many readers of our blog have been following the situation at Foxconn in China where a number of workers have jumped to their death due to the fact that they are overworked and underpaid with deplorable working conditions. You can find the story here. Foxconn manufactures motherboards.

I saw an article today that had a photo of the anti-suicide nets they put up around the dorms of the workers at Foxconn. Yes, a billion dollar corporation that has to put up nets to prevent their workers from killing themselves.

Nets installed at a Foxconn factory to prevent suicides


The imprint of this image in my head is no different than the images I have seen of children dismantling electronic waste in India. Why? Because of the outrage I feel at a situation that is so unjust, so wrong and that I am partially to blame. My electronic gadgets from my laptop to my IPods are contributing – and that makes my stomach turn.

I strongly believe that everyone can make choices in their lives to lessen the suffering and injustice that occurs and yet, in situations like this – we need the corporations to act. And a first plea to them here – please do.

Sheila and I traveled to Shenzhen in China a couple of years ago to speak with production workers and we also went to lunch with them (China trip blog post). These workers told us of on the job injuries such as cutting their fingers, burns, and being poisoned by the chemicals. The chemicals are not labeled so the workers are unaware of what they are working with, which inevitably results in workers experiencing various side-effects such as rashes. They also talked about very hot and cramped working conditions.  If they took restroom breaks, they had to acknowledge that such breaks could impact their ability to meet their quotas.
The young women we spoke to worked 12-14 hours a day, standing the entire time. Some of the working hours went from 8am – 8:20pm and 9pm – 8:20am. They were also not allowed to speak to one another on the job.

Many are young people who leave their villages for work in the cities.  Jobs in these factories include the dormitories in which they live in with sometimes 10 or more people to a room.

Based on the articles I have read about Foxconn, it doesn’t sound like the situation there is too different…

One article says that Foxconn’s labor and policies are in line with industry standards.

But honestly, so what if they do? I mean, do we care  if they have the highest standards in China and yet they are still allowing workers to be treated this way? I don’t think I will ever understand how one corporation can treat their workers here in the U.S. one way, and at the same time allow the most deplorable conditions to be accepted in another country?

Due to the suicides (or possibly due to the publicity around the suicides) the company has started paying the workers more money – which is a good start.

But, I know I speak on behalf of myself and others – what we seem to be called “conscientious consumers” (to me, we are just people who do not want others to suffer for what we have) that we must deliver a plea to these manufacturers to act now, and to help create a more equitable economy around the globe. Or they must live with their conscience with the deaths of these young people who are working and yet unable to create a life for themselves.