A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.
Yeah, ok. American workers will always remain uncompetitive if being competitive means living in dormitories, available at a moment's notice from a kinder and gentler foreman who quietly knocks on your door and offers you a biscuit and a cup of tea, in return for rousing you from your dorm-room slumbers.
The question is how long will those current workers who live in dormitories sacrifice their lives to satisfy the digital fetishes of ...us? Or anyone?
Is this a sustainable business model? Ultimately, no. Look at the picture with the article at this link. Lots of people offering their resumes. Look again, these are not dormitory dwellers. They have expectations that their education and their skills will give them access to the lifestyles they see, locally and globally.
Maybe today, maybe tomorrow. But one day somebody's going to say I don't want to live in slavery, I mean a dormitory so this company can continue to put profits over lives.Sure. Maybe in China there remain enough unemployed who see dormitory life in their golden years as a great step forward. But word-of-mouth is universal. And words from the mouths of those who've lived in and worked from those worker-paradise dorms will soon turn employee evangelists into....employee vigilantes.
Stories like this, also from the NY Times, will help change the conversation, the choices being made, about our favorite digital product:
Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.
From Mother Jones comes this,
A few weeks back, there was an incredible episode of This American Life, wherein Mike Daisey, a monologist and "self-described worshipper in the cult of Mac" visits the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China, where iPads are made. What he finds there is mind-boggling. First, the sheer size of the place: 34,000 workers. The cafeterias seat thousands, and the dormitories are so crowded the beds remind Daisey of coffins.
Daisey meets a young woman who cleans iPad screens and discovers that she is just 13. While he is there, a worker dies after a 34-hour shift. But the most chilling part was Daisey's description of the factories as virtually silent. There's no thrum of machinery, he realizes, because there are hardly any machines. What we miss when we wax nostalgic about a time when things were made by hand, he says, is that "There are more handmade things now than there have ever been."
I write this on an iMac. I love Mac products. Reliable, smart, easy to navigate, fast, safe, secure as compared to PCs. Ok, the reflective screen on the Macbook is ...an interesting choice. Nobody's perfect.
But under Apple's business model it is an either/or choice. Bestest, fastest, coolest gadgets and rising profits, Apple Surges on Net Income Doubling ....or....not.
It's not an either/or choice: Profits or Lives. That's a false dichotomy. That dichotomy leads to radically unequal wealth distribution, unmotivated workers...What's the point, there is no place to get ahead...you mean a bigger dorm room? Awesome...
Eventually social unrest.
Isn't the real choice the choice of how to make profits and grow lives? That's sustainable. Your profits grows as do your people. I guarantee your profits cannot continue grow as the numbers of workers per dorm room grow, or the number of biscuits and cups of tea per employee decline. Your company grows as do the people engaged in creating that company. No engagement, no growth.
Update from ProPublica, By the Numbers: Life and Death at FoxConn. Here's a few:
70: number of psychiatrists employed by Foxconn to prevent suicides, according to a 2010 announcement by CEO Terry Gou.
100: Estimated number of employees at a Foxconn factory in Wuhan who stood on the roof of a factory building this month to protest working conditions and wages. Several threatened to commit suicide, according to the New York Times.
20: number of employees sometimes packed into a three-room apartment.
200: Reported number of police officers who responded to a Foxconn dormitory riot.