Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Repercussions of Reporting on Apple 'Sweatshops' 120

Posted by Zonk
from the hard-news dept.
PRC Banker writes "Following the media attention over Apple using 'sweatshop' tactics to manufacture iPods, facts were disseminated making things seem not as bad as first reported. However, recent developments suggest that 'Apple Computer's iPod supplier FoxConn has decided to sue the media for mis-reporting on working conditions in their factories. Rather than sue the British tabloids, FoxConn sues a Shanghai newspaper. The reporter has a translated version of his personal experience and thoughts.' Powerful Chinese company threatens local media. Worrying indeed, especially given this company's track record. The president of Foxconn is the richest man in Taiwan, and the company has attempted to use coercion in the past."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Repercussions of Reporting on Apple 'Sweatshops'

Comments Filter:
  • No worries. (Score:4, Funny)

    by DrunkenTerror (561616) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @02:55PM (#15985766) Homepage Journal
    It's Apple-related, so it's ok.
    • Re:No worries. (Score:5, Informative)

      by mp3phish (747341) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @03:04PM (#15985789)
      To throw more flames on the coles, Foxconn is also Dell's largest supplier of components. So this isn't just an Apple article, it explains why the Foxconn president is the richest man in the (eastern) world.
    • In a recent article [businessweek.com], "Businessweek" made some damning comments about Foxconn. According to the article, when a manager from HP demanded to inspect the working conditions in the Chinese factories run by the Chinese managers of Taiwan-based Foxconn, the Chinese managers resisted. Why would Foxconn resist if its management were treating its workers well?

      The Chinese (in both mainland China and Taiwan province) simply do not care about workers' rights. Foxconn is a Chinese company based in Taiwan.

      To unde

  • by mp3phish (747341) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @02:59PM (#15985775)
    Foxconn is also Dell's largest supplier of system components. The only thing foxconn doesn't make that is in a Dell business system is the plastics and chassis (and even then, most are Foxconn)

    Does this mean that corporate america is funding political terrorists?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tweekster (949766)
      What political terrorism?

      Sueing for libel doesnt exactly count. (valid claim or not)
    • by ClamIAm (926466)
      Does this mean that corporate america is funding political terrorists?

      Well, they're funding themselves, so....yeah.

      And if some people think "terrorism" is too strong a word to use for these type of people, I ask you to look up the definition of the word. Those who run "corporate america" definitely use their influence to threaten and instill fear in others.
  • Da Trut (Score:2, Insightful)

    by saihung (19097)
    In the USA, truth is always a defense against libel. In China, the truth is what the government says it is and if you're the media there is often no defense if someone powerful is out to get you. The Taiwan connection is interesting, but not surprising: people living in free societies can be pretty feckless when it comes to depriving those in non-free societies of those same freedoms.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by soft_guy (534437)
      They are in Taiwan, not China. Taiwan is a free society.
      • by MustardMan (52102)
        Taiwan is a free society.

        Try telling that to china!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by saihung (19097)
        Please read more carefully before you correct others. The factory facility is located in Longhua in southern China. The controlliing corporation is headquartered in Taiwan. Hence those in a free society (Taiwan) are not worried about denying those freedoms to others (in China).
    • by acornboy (920113)
      Funny last i heard Taiwan held elections that were at least as believable as the U.S. elections... and no Diebold there i believe.
  • Chinese media, especially newspapers, are a popular target for retribution. Report on something damaging to a major company or the government and you could find yourself out of a job [findarticles.com] or worse. It seems you're expected to totally ignore any potentially damaging news and stick to safe topics (ex: what the gov't tells you to report on.)

    My guess is that this company figures they have a better chance of exacting revenge on a newspaper in China than on British tabloids.

    -Parallax
    • s/China/USA/g
      • by ClamIAm (926466)
        My thoughts exactly. And when an American doesn't get fired/sued, the friendly folks at Fox News and other ruling class-friendly places will try their damnedest to destroy your career.
    • No points left or else I would mod you up. Quite why a simple statement of fact like yours was modded down as a troll is beyond me.
    • Or maybe, they don't care what british tabloids say and worry more about bad press in their own country. Setting aside the morality of crushing someone into silence becuase you have more money than them. It makes perfectly good sense to go after local media. And, this happens in the states all the time. Money is power, it has been since medieval times where Kings could order money delivered to them and have detractors killed. In such a strongly Capitalist country such as the states I find it reprehensable t
    • The current defamation and libel laws in China are regularly used by companies to stifle criticism.

      ANY Google News search with terms like, say, "china company defamation" will turn up dozens of stories with this subtext.

      China is writing its legal system even as we speak, and making great strides towards the rule of law, but the results so far have been patchy. From 6,000 years of imperial rule to rule of law in under a decade? Unprecedented, but China's trying it.

      This story is another example of this parti
  • Boo Hoo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kohath (38547) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @03:21PM (#15985837)
    The media tries to damage a company (and all the people working there, and all the stockholders and suppliers) with a distorted drive-by hit story. It's a little refreshing to see someone hitting back for a change.
    • But are you sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, that these allegations are false?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kohath (38547)
        It's more like "media loses == I'm happy".

        When bad things happen to the press it's a step forward for everyone getting the full story on what's going on instead of just the bits that feed the reporter's biases (even if the reporter has to make them up). The news in the newspaper has become less true and less balanced than the advertisements.
        • by imemyself (757318)
          And you think this lawsuit is going to *improve* the quality of newspapers? It will have the exact opposite effect. Newspapers will be even less likely to report on anything that might piss anyone off. Why work hard and risk getting sued by reporting on corporate wrong-doing when you can reprint their press releases and spend ten pages talking about entertainment bullshit?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Kohath (38547)
            And you think this lawsuit is going to *improve* the quality of newspapers?

            I think almost all newspapers will go out of business in the next 15 years either way.

            Newspapers will be even less likely to report on anything that might piss anyone off.

            Maybe they'll have to double-check their facts. Maybe they'll have to get both sides of the story. Perhaps they'll have to take a skeptical look at the authenticity of their documents and photographs.

            Why work hard and risk getting sued by reporting on corporate wr
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by NeutronCowboy (896098)
          And you know who's to blame for that? You. That's right. Everytime you don't challenge your newspaper about a story, you're a willing participant in the charade. Everytime you turn on TV and watch a broadcast-and-run story that is patently false, you support the channel. How do you fix? Get your news from trustworthy sources. Oh, wait. You probably dont know how to determine if a source is trustworthy. Sorry, I can't help you there. Critical thinking is not something I'm willing to teach in the course of a
        • Speaking of advertisements:

          Has it ever occured to you that perhaps advertisers may very well have an agenda they funnel through the press, via which stories they tell? Imbalance is not due to bias; it is due to corporate greed.
          • by Kohath (38547)
            Has it ever occured to you that perhaps advertisers may very well have an agenda they funnel through the press, via which stories they tell? Imbalance is not due to bias; it is due to corporate greed.

            And your evidence for this is ... ?

            It doesn't really matter why the press does a bad job. It matters how often and how long and what damage it does.
      • by adzoox (615327)
        The report Apple released was pretty clear ... the reporter also has admitted to "embellishing" as well.
      • by n2art2 (945661)
        nothing like guilty until proven innocent, and then still guilty if the "media" says so, right?
  • Or... (Score:5, Funny)

    by kippers (809056) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @03:22PM (#15985841)
    ...maybe they were just aware that no-one believes British tabloids.
    • ...maybe they were just aware that no-one believes British tabloids.

      Or possibly they were aware that the British gutter press have some seriously heavyweight libel lawyers on their side.

      Except for the Private Eye, of course, which can't ever get hold of a decent libel lawyer for love or money...

  • At Apple... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ...we pass the slavings on to you!

    Actually, we just keep most of it for ourselves.
  • by fermion (181285) * on Saturday August 26, 2006 @03:52PM (#15985919) Homepage Journal
    When I read articles like this I must ask what is the person who is buying these product doing. I mean it cost a finite amount of money to produce a product. Once you add overhead, the product may already be at a point where no one is willing to pay for it. Cutting overhead means cutting direct employees and management waste. To be competitive in the stock market one must have good numbers, the product does not really matter. Good numbers means low labor cost, high profits. The amount spent on management can be hidden. Contract costs cannot.

    So mostly we benefit from these sweat shops. The low income have an opportunity to buy products. Everyone who has investment feels rich because companies can keep costs low, so the stock market isup and investors will buy more expensive things, like houses. People with houses feels better off than they are because they can leverage paper gains into real cash. The economy appears to be doing better than it is because in addition to the fake house cash, we also get loans from Asia so that we can afford to pay them for manufacturing in their swear shops.

    But at the end of the day, it is the average persons desire for cheap stuff that drives the cycle. I wonder if Apple produced the 68K Powerbooks in sweatshops? I wonder if Dell could survive without sweatshops. Would we tolerate, would the american economy survive, the lack of sweat shops?

    I certainly would want Apple to have a bit more dignity than say, Nike, but I don't hold my breath. As everyone says, Apples are too expensive, and the cost must come down. But think of this. I saw a documentary last year in which a european cell phone manufacturer audited their asian manufacturing facility. Overall it was not terrible. Many safety issues, but not unlike what one would see in the US. Most girls, cramped housing, but again not unlike the way young people live in the US. These workers were there earning a living and saving money, which, if you believe that a hard days work imbues dignity, could be a good thing. One interesting thing was that since the employees were living in company dorm, the company was officially much more responsible for their workers, like being liable if a girl got pregnant.

    Which is simply to say that the simplifications made by most are simply useless. I believe we are in much more trouble than most will admit, and the solutions will require much broader adjustments in behavior, which will either be done voluntarily or by necessity. While much of this simplification is done to make it accessible to the common person, and the bias may often be unintentional, the fact that so often the blame lies elsewhere than the writer seem disingenuous.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gutnor (872759)
      "So mostly we benefit from these sweat shops"

      Sounds like an oxymoron. Everybody benefits from the sweatshops except the sweatshop workers. Same apply to slavery.

      "would the american economy survive, the lack of sweat shops?"

      That's not the right question to ask. You do not build a society optimised for economy, you build an economy that can sustain your society. ( you say "USA has been built based on value of Freedom" And not: "In order to maximise investment return, the USA should accept Freedom as a good st
    • by FleaPlus (6935) *
      Would we tolerate, would the american economy survive, the lack of sweat shops?

      On a similar note, would the Chinese economy survive the lack of sweat shops?
    • As everyone says, Apples are too expensive, and the cost must come down.

      Branded products do not cost a lot to buy, yet have to be made astonishlingly cheaply, because they are better. They cost a lot, and have to be made cheaply, because much more money is spent on advertising the product than making the product. This is the simple reason why unbranded products can be rediculously cheaper than branded ones - partly because the corporation that makes the cheap product doesn't want to insinuate its produc

  • by misey (996068)
    i think i'd sleep a little better at night if my mac mini was made by a person who was paid fairly for the work they put in.
    • by Kohath (38547)
      You could trust the person who put it together. He can determine whether he's paid fairly or not. And if not, he can choose to do something else.

      See how that works? You sleep better by trusting people to live their own lives and make their own decisions. They can do that because they have more information about their lives than you do.
      • This is one of the most insightful and logical posts I have ever read on Slashdot.
      • by Jedi Alec (258881)
        You could trust the person who put it together. He can determine whether he's paid fairly or not. And if not, he can choose to do something else.

        Like, instead of being a heavily underpaid sweatshop slave who might very well be underage, he or she could also choose to be free, hungry and soon to be dead from starvation. Not every person on this planet has the same scope of choices available.
        • by Kohath (38547)
          Not every person on this planet has the same scope of choices available.

          But among the choices he does have, I trust him to make the best one. He'll do a better job than you or me at choosing, because he has more information than we do about his life.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 26, 2006 @04:57PM (#15986135)
    ...and American?

    Before you mod me flamebait please realize that no one here has attempted to define what a "sweatshop" is,
    or how these jobs compare to others in the Chinese economy.

    I own a company that manufactures in China. We pay well above average, and there is always (and when I say always I mean 24/7)
    a line of people at the gate looking for work.

    None of this changes the fact that most people on this board would call the factory a sweatshop, because the hours are long,
    the pay is low by US Standards and the working conditions are below ours in America.

    But we're not talking about the US. We're talking about the entire rest of the world which is poorer than we are.

    Yes, we have a moral obligation to provide clean, safe working conditions. But we do not have an obligation to elevate those
    we employ abroad to US standards of living. And to wealthy Americans (if you're reading this you are comparitively wealthy)
    those standards would seem terrifying.

    Right now you are sitting in front of a computer surrounded by the products of cheap (and arguably exploitative) labor. Everything you own. Everything
    you've eaten today. Everything you're wearing.

    By what amazing gift of self-denial do people here condemn the system which makes them so wealthy?

    The difference between American capitalists and those who would condemn them that the latter make weak protestations as they consume with the same gusto.

    Flame away kids.
    • by Billly Gates (198444) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @05:45PM (#15986308) Journal
      During the 1950's everything was made in the US with labor unions and a strong middle class followed. That was true prosperity and nothing was too far out of the common man's reach besides luxuries items.

      To me this proves that the excuse to exploit people is to make more money and is based on greed. THe middle class is suffering while the upper middle class is getting rich and the gap is widening. Gas prices and rent more than doubled in 3 or 4 years yet our salaries have not and more and more factories are closing and heading to China for cheap labor.

      Money trickles back with demand side economics.
      • by mapkinase (958129)
        You are off-topic, sir. The subject is Apple is BAD BAD BAD for Chinese. What YOU are saying, is Apple is BAD BAD BAD for Americans.
      • by kamapuaa (555446)
        During the 50s, the world outside the US was divided into Communist nations, nations ravaged by a recent war, and nations that were either actively colonized or still dealing with the aftereffects of colonization. The US could afford to work inefficiently, because the US was the only game in town.
    • by LGagnon (762015) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @06:01PM (#15986368)
      You do understand that there is a fair trade market, right? That not everything you can buy is made thorugh terrible working conditions? Don't get me wrong, I know there are companies out there like American Apperel that claim "Sweatshop Free" yet still don't respect worker's rights (AA is notoriously anti-union, to the point of staging anti-union protests by forcing workers to pose for the media as being anti-union), but the fair trade industry does exist, and many of us relatively rich people do buy from them. Granted, America is slow to adopt ethical purchasing into our currently poor ethical boundaries, but we are making some progress.

      And yes, it is hard to introduce worker's rights into an anti-worker environment. However, you don't have to have your shop in China. You could set up shop somewhere else, where the laws allow you to respect the workers. Don't blame the consumer when you haven't even tried everything you can to solve the problem.
      • by raehl (609729)
        Unions cost money. They take money out of worker's paychecks to run the Union infractructure and pay the Union leadership. Like any other organization, the Union's #1 goal is to extend it's existence, including trying to attract as many members as possible.

        Is the price of having a union worth it? The answer, like all things, is SOMETIMES! If your working conditions suck, joining a union may be worthwhile. If your working conditions are pretty good, joining a union may just increase the costs of labor t
      • by N1EY (817702)
        What is wrong when poor people work in UNION sweatshops in New York City. They work long hours and do not get their pay. The Union blasts "sweatshops" in China; however, the people had a clean working environment in the chinese shops. They were paid better, when you compare their standards of living.
    • by mapkinase (958129)
      What is here to flame about? Who would flame such a clear representation of truth?

      You are right on the money, pal. I would also elaborate more, but then the REAL flame will start.
    • by Eivind (15695)
      It's true that rich westerners could afford significantly less if all goods and services had to be produced by people earning the same, and enjoying the same standards of living as we do.

      However, you exagerate. The west is rich *partly* because of the large supply of cheap labor in other countries, but not *only* because of that.

      In actual fact, your claims are wrong.

      • I've eaten bread today. The bread was made by a norwegian baker. (infact he lives less than a km from me and I know him well.) The ingred
  • by mthreat (632318) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @05:55PM (#15986347) Homepage
    Why doesn't Apple just sell two ipods versions -- one made in "sweatshops" and one made by well-paid americans in the bay area.

    Folks who don't want to support "sweatshops" can buy the "made in USA" version (for around $900 probably), and others can buy the $300 (sweatshop) version.

    And they should make it visually easy to distinguish which version you have just by looking at it (just to keep us all honest).

    • by Duncan3 (10537)
      Hahaha, in the bay area you couldn't find people and a lcoation to make it for $900, not even close. Maybe $3,000... maybe.

      Oh, you ment illegals, on yea, $900 for the illegals easy, but then the business owner will mark it up, so you're right back to $3,000.
      • Who said anything about the 'Bay Area'?? The GP referred to the USA.

        I live in a 19th century house on five acres of land. I am within a mile of a small town that has one of the better private colleges in this midwestern state. I paid $120K for this property. Life is, uh, pretty good.

        I live in the USA. The 'Bay Area' is some freak economic zone that definitely is NOT America.
    • the ones made by the high-paid Americans would look trashy enough anyway.

      One of these days, the world will change, and people will be motivated by things other than immediate gain and loss. I don't want to advocate bad working conditions, but the worker motivated to get rewarded for putting out a good product does a better job than the worker who is guaranteed good enough conditions, whatever he thinks are good enough.

      (Of course, a worker paid enough to keep self and dependents at least in good health is go
  • The UK is one of the favourite places to launch defamation actions, because our laws are so heavily skewed in favour of the claimant.

    Claimant's don't even have to prove actual harm, only that a story would *tend* to cause harm in the eyes of right thinking people. That four letter word is what makes the UK's defamation law the most pernicious in the free world.

    And there's the rub: I suspect this has more to do with Asian politics than libel.

  • China mandates three "Golden Weeks" for its workers.
    But a third of American working women are given no paid leave, and a quarter of men get no pay from their employer if they take a week or more off for rest and recreation.

    At least thats what the media is telling me to think this week.
    • by russotto (537200)
      But a third of American working women are given no paid leave, and a quarter of men get no pay from their employer if they take a week or more off for rest and recreation. At least thats what the media is telling me to think this week.
      And I'll bet they're including part time workers and probably primary & secondary schoolteachers (who get precious little leave during the school year, but get a week off in the winter and 2-3 months in the summer) as well.
  • They just can't "do the right thing" to "The rest of us", it seems. http://home.comcast.net/~plutarch/malfy.html [comcast.net]
  • The original reporter is not accurate enough. It is not "Powerful Chinese company threatens local media". It is "Powerful Taiwanese company in China threatens local reporters"! The translated content in the first link is correct. FoxConn wants RMB30,000,000 (US$3,750,000) of compensation from two reporters. It is simply ridiculous.

    Side comment: The worst labour conditions can occur in the Taiwan, Hong Kong, or foreign invested factories in South-East China. It is really the "blood and dirt" period of capi

There are never any bugs you haven't found yet.

Working...