updated 09:30 pm EDT, Wed April 11, 2012
Some new details emerge, iPad assembly seen
Marketplace reporter Rob Schmitz, the man who uncovered the discrepancies in Mike Daisey's account of the lives of Foxconn workers, has posted a short YouTube video (seen below) with some of the footage from inside the Foxconn factory he visited. The video shows the steps of iPad construction, which reveal the introduction of some automation but confirm that the tablet is made largely by hand. The report offers a few new details as well.
For example, Schmitz notes that the workers rotate their jobs every few days -- an unsurprising find, since the work tends to be "tedious and boring" as Schmitz describes it, but one that had been unconfirmed until now. He also establishes the workers' starting pay at $14 per day, low by western standards but significantly higher that can be found elsewhere in the country at that level of work.
More importantly, Foxconn is known by Chinese workers for paying on time, a rare trait among other factories, and less likely to cheat on overtime pay than its competitors. Seen for the first time in the report is a lineup of what Schmitz describes as 500 people who've arrived looking for work, hoping to be accepted for a position at Foxconn. The video also shows some of the sports facilities inside the "factory," which is really a series of buildings laid out like a very large office park or planned development.
The video largely reiterates what Apple supporters and Chinese workers have been saying in defense of both Apple and Foxconn: that the factories are largely clean and safe (in fact, the Foxconn record of safety surpasses that of the average American factory safety rate), that the company has invested heavily in improving facilities, and that while the jobs are repetitive and dull, this is typical of factory jobs everywhere. The majority of the workers are young people, between 18 and 25, and almost all of them are migrant workers who labor at the factories in order to send money back to their families in rural villages, where life is much more difficult.
The first part of Schmitz's audio report on the "Apple Economy" has been posted on the Marketplace web site. The first portion features interviews with workers, who say the US media has blown the story out of context and proportion. They complain about their supervisors, but point out that conditions are better that what they left behind in the rural villages.
Schmitz goes to one of the villages to interview the parents of one of the workers, who say he doesn't send all that much money home and that factories are for the young people who are too restless to learn a traditional skill such as farming. Additional reports will be posted over the week.
The first part of the audio report