Chinese manufacturer FoxConn, a key supplier for the world’s largest technology company Apple Inc., today announced it will be raising workers’ wages by 16 to 25 percent in response to public outcry over reports of worker mistreatment. The move comes after nearly 250,000 individuals signed a petition on Change.org demanding Apple hold its suppliers accountable for violations of fair labor practices.
FoxConn is best known in the United States as Apple Inc.’s largest supplier, manufacturing the technology giant’s popular iPad, iPhone and signature Mac computer products, in addition to dozens of other gadgets for other technology companies. But it has also gained a reputation as a chronic violator of human rights and fair labor practices.
A widely-circulated cover story in Wired Magazine’s March 2011 issue looked at an alarming string of 17 suicides in the spring of 2010 by workers in the FoxConn facility, and a subsequent report conducted a year later showed how the conditions that were thought to have led to the suicides were still prevalent in the factory.
The petition on Change.org was created in reaction to the January 6 episode of popular radio show This American Life. The episode was an adaptation of a one-man show performed by Mike Daisey called “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.”
In the report, Daisey — who traveled to China to learn about FoxConn and its employees firsthand — described a factory where managers turn the other cheek on child labor, and workers, some as young as 13, are forced to stand during 14 hour shifts and live in cramped dormitories on the FoxxConn campus. In the weeks since, Apple announced it was requesting that the Fair Labor Association conduct random searches of the FoxxConn plant for violations of Apple’s supplier policy.
As Think Progress has noted, Apple, which recently overtook Exxon as the world’s largest corporation in terms of market capitalization, has spent the last decade earning record profits while the workers who make its products continue to toil in potentially hazardous working conditions.
On March 16, This American Life and Chicago Public Media officially retracted the episode, citing inconsistencies with the story as told by Mike Daisey. In a statement, host Ira Glass explains that while the show was able to independently verify several key facts, other elements of the story remained unconfirmed and have since been disputed by the translator who accompanied Daisey during his trip to China. Read the full release here (PDF).