Forgotten Amid the Apple iPad Hype

Somehow this must have slipped by amid all the hoopla for the Apple iPad: hours were so long and conditions were so bad for Chinese workers making the gizmos that some committed suicide.

That was the motivation behind a protest in front of Apple's flagship San Francisco store on June 17 that was captured by writer and photographer David Bacon, who has carved out a niche reporting on exploited workers worldwide, particularly immigrants in this country.

Remembering the forgotten.
Remembering the forgotten.
Photo by David Bacon

The protest, which was organized by San Francisco's Chinese Progressive Association, featured solemn people holding signs with the names of workers who took their own lives because of conditions at the Foxconn factory in southern China, where the Apple iPad is manufactured. 

Bacon writes:

Those conditions include 80 hours of overtime a month, according to the Chinese media. Chinese law limits overtime to 36 hours per month. No one is allowed to talk on the production line, and workers complain of constant high line speed and speedup. Most workers live in huge dormitories, where often 12 people share a room.   

The suicides include a man who jumped from a dormitory. He'd worked there for two years.  Another man, recently hired, slit his wrists and was taken to a hospital. A woman hanged herself in the bathroom, and a man drowned in a company swimming pool. The latest person committed suicide right after Foxconn's head, Terry Guo, had visited the factory and taken journalists on a tour.

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An embarrassed Apple Corp. has stated it will compensate workers by increasing the money it was paying Foxconn from 2.3% to 3% of the final price it charges for an iPad. 

"That's the equivalent of the amount Apple spends for the device's aluminium back," Bacon reports.

Check out more of his photos here. Bacon also notes conditions at Foxconn will be contained in a book to be published later this year, From Silicon Valley to Shenzhen by German sociologist Boy Leuthje.

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