On May 6, a group of worker advocates in Hong Kong released a report on factories in China where Apple’s iPhones and iPods, and Hewlett Packard’s laptops are made, and the findings were pretty damning. Alas, if anyone noticed the report, three workers may be alive today.
The owner of the facilities Foxconn had come under fire last year for the 14-plus suicides committed by employees of the company. The problem of workers flinging themselves off of stairwells at the plant because of the horrible working conditions was so bad the company installed nets to keep employees from jumping off upper levels.
Foxconn had promised to make things better but a group called Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior in Hong Kong decided to keep an eye on whether things would really change, hence the report. In additional to finding a continuation of tough working conditions, including forced overtime and crummy wages, the researchers discovered an ominous problem. The workers were breathing in aluminum dust.
This from the report by SACOM, as the group is known:
In the milling machine department in Chengdu, some workers state they always breathe in the aluminium dust. Workers in the polishing department also complain that the department is full of
aluminium dust. Even though they have worn gloves, their hands are still covered by dust and so
as their face and clothes. Some workers comment that ventilation on shop floor should be
The report was released earlier this month, and this past Friday guess what happened at one of the Foxconn facilities? An explosion, and according to a Wall Street Journal story today, “a preliminary government task force blamed combustible dust in a duct at the facility.”
We don’t know all the details yet but few can deny the conditions Foxconn workers face are deplorable, at best. How many people have to die before we start rethinking how U.S. companies exploit low-wage workers around the globe?