As an owner of several Apple products, I’ve been tracking the disturbing story of working conditions inside the Foxcomm factory in China, where the iPad is assembled. People tend to forget that the relative low cost of our electronics are not just the result of technology, but also of the continued exploitation of labor. According to an undercover report,
Liu had his most interesting chats with other workers during meals. Some told him that they envied workers who are sick. They get leave approvals and can get some rest. They also discussed about accidents in the factory: One worker got his finger cut-off during production. A few workers think that the machines are cursed. They believe it’s dangerous for them to use the machines.
Another worker spoke about one of the favorite activities in the factory lines: He likes to drop stuff on the floor. Why? Workers spend achingly up to eight hours standing up, so they feel that squatting down to grab a fallen object is the most restful moment of their working day…
According to one worker, they can’t live without these dreams. They dream of becoming rich one day. Some spend part of their salaries buying lottery tickets and betting on horse races.
Of course, these working conditions would be no news if it weren’t for the wave of suicides in the factory.
It’s obvious to anyone that these are band-aids and aren’t addressing the root problem. Of course, wage increases or better working conditions wouldn’t accomplish that either. The fundamental problem is that in industrial capitalism, workers are alienated from the fruits their labor. These psychological damanges should surprise no one, as Karl Marx saw this alienation as a systemic part of capitalism. The exploitation that inherently occurs along with it certainly reduces the workers’ material standard of living, but that’s only half the problem. The idea that these conditions are unique to Apple, Foxcomm, or China is simply naive.