On his show “On Contact” this week, Chris Hedges talked to Professor Jenny Chan about the people in China who make iPhones, iPads and Kindles, driving the huge profits of two of the world’s most powerful companies — Foxconn, the world’s largest provider of electronics manufacturing services, and Apple with its $2 trillion in market value.
Chan, along with Mark Selden and Pun Ngai, did extensive field research for almost a decade to produce their book “Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn, and The Lives of China’s Workers.” What they show is that workers in China earn a fraction of what unionized workers in the United States earn. They have no job protection, are forced to work punishing hours of overtime, as much as 130 hours of overtime a month, live under constant surveillance, are severely disciplined for minor infractions and must meet punishing quotas that leave them physically drained and sometimes injured and sick. They are separated from their families, including their children, and housed in overcrowded dormitories next to the factories that have round-the-clock production. There is little protection from chemicals and toxins, such as aluminum dust.
In addition to this abuse, student interns from vocational schools are exploited by being paid even lower salaries than ordinary workers. Their efforts to organize and protest are usually violently crushed, with workers being beaten, jailed and fired. There has been a spate of worker suicides, forcing factories to put up barriers and nets to try to prevent them.
To read more on the subject, see Chris Hedges’ recent essay on the topic.