In a damning report released by a labor watchdog uncovered a stunning number of abuses at three Chinese factories that make iPhones and other Apple products, but most of the tech press on Monday focused on one very specific thing in the report from China Labor Watch: Photos of what looked like a new version of the iPhone.
It was, as BuzzFeed's John Herrman noted, a depressing reminder of just how little Americans seem to care about how their smartphones and tablets are made -- as long as the devices are super-cool!
So here's our attempt to drum up American empathy for Chinese workers. Most comfortable Americans would agree they wouldn't want to work at one of the three factories run by Pegatron. But what if you wanted to, for your livelihood? Would you be "qualified" for the job? Answer these questions to scratch the surface of the level of discrimination.
Do you have a tattoo?
If your answer is yes, your application is denied. "In public areas and in front of many people, workers are made to strip off clothing and undergo tattoo examinations," China Labor Watch writes. "Such examinations are carried out twice in different places."
Are you over 35?
Yes? Application denied. The factory only hires people between the ages of 16 and 35.
Are you pregnant?
Denied. But what if you become pregnant? Here's what a Pegatron PowerPoint presentation said: "Female employees who become pregnant out of wedlock or who violate family planning policy cannot enjoy maternity leave or paid maternity leave."
Have funky hair?
Goodbye. Pegatron does not hire anyone with "unusual hairstyles or hair colors."
Are you under 4-foot-11?
Denied. Pegatron only hires people taller than 4-foot-11.
Even if you met all those qualifications, keep in mind: The report from China Labor Watch describes a multitude of labor abuses, workers often don't get any days off and work 7-day work weeks during busy seasons, for example. The dorms in which workers live do not have hot water, and 8 to 12 workers live in each room. Some workers are forced to stand for their entire shift, and when the factory is busy, employees often work 126 hours of overtime per month, 3.5 times the legal overtime limit.
Still totally love your iPad?
"We strive to make each day at Pegatron better than the last for our employees," Apple said in an official statement. "They are the heart of our business. That's why we take these allegations very seriously. We will investigate them fully and take immediate actions to correct any violations to Chinese labor laws and our own code of conduct."
On February 21, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/22/nightline-apple-supplier-foxconn_n_1293393.html?ref=technology" target="_hplink">ABC aired a "Nightline" segment featuring Bill Weir's visit to a Chinese Foxconn factory</a> responsible for making some of Apple's popular devices. During a tour of the factory, Weir says he "expected more robots" but in fact most of the gadgets at Foxconn are made the old-fashioned way: The high tech parts are put together by hand. For example, iPhones are assembled by hand in 141 steps. One iPad takes five days to assemble and passes through 325 sets of hands.
Two shifts of workers toiling in 12 hour shifts can make 300,000 iPad camera modules in one day, not to mention shape sleek iPads out of "raw hunk[s] of aluminum" at a rate of 10,000 per hour. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>
7 To A Room
Many workers live at the factory, where they pay $17.50 per month to live 7 to a room in Foxconn dormitories. <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/connieguglielmo/2012/02/22/nightline-goes-inside-apple-factories-in-china/" target="_hplink">The average starting salary is $285 per month,</a> and workers must pay for their food. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>
No Free Lunch
Workers get two hour-long meal breaks during each 12-hour shift. They eat together in a cafeteria where they pay $.70 a meal. This is about a quarter of their hourly wage. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>
Tim Cook Investigated Suicides
In 2010, after a spate of suicides at Foxconn's Shenzen plant, then COO Tim Cook flew to China to investigate the matter. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">According to Nightline,</a> Cook put together a team of psychiatric experts to examine the issue. It was at that team's suggestion that the infamous nets were installed between the buildings to prevent suicides. There have been 18 worker suicides at Foxconn since 2010. <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/15/us-china-apple-idUSTRE81E1FQ20120215" target="_hplink">According to Reuters' interview with Fair Labor Association president Auret van Heerden, the group's initial findings from its audit of Foxconn</a> suggested that the suicides could have been "a function of monotony, of boredom, of alienation perhaps."
Weir said he was surprised to see how young the workers were. He said many were in their late teens and no one looked like they could be over 30. Many had left their hometowns, oftentimes in the countryside, in order to get jobs at Foxconn. Weir also toured Chengdu and spoke with the relatives of workers who had left for jobs at Foxconn. According to Cult of Mac, <a href="http://www.cultofmac.com/147878/foxconn-employees-say-underage-workers-were-hidden-before-fla-inspection/" target="_hplink">Foxconn may have hidden underage employees</a> when the Fair Labor Association conducted its inspections. While Apple allows for workers as young as sixteen to assemble their products, those eighteen and under are afforded "special protections," <a href="http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/12/02/22/factory_workers_claim_foxconn_hid_under_age_employees_before_fla_inspection.html" target="_hplink">according to Apple Insider.</a> These include not being allowed to perform some tasks and working shorter hours than older workers.
Foxconn Exec Wants To Pay More
When asked how Foxconn would react if Apple suggested doubling workers' pay, Foxconn executive Louis Woo told Weir that the company would welcome a raise for employees. "Why not?" Woo said. "That would be good for the employees and also definitely good for China and good for us."
Workers have to wear static-proof jackets and take "air showers" to make sure the work area remains dust-free. Even one spec of dust could prove ruinous to the iGadgets' delicate innards. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>
WATCH A CLIP FROM THE NIGHTLINE SEGMENT