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Dudes dressed up as Spiderman at Foxconn anti-suicide rally

 by John Moe // Posted: 08/18/10 05:48 PM

Today is one of those days I just have to go home having not understood the world.

That happens a lot when it comes to Foxconn. Allow me some bullet points:

* World’s largest manufacturer.

* Hundreds of thousands of employees, evidently around 920,000.

* Almost all the factory workers are young men and women from rural areas who come to live in factory dorms and work long hours.

* Those long hours are spent building electronics YOU OWN. Phones, computers, gaming stuff, iPads, Kindles, you name it.

* They’ve had a rash of suicides, mostly involving young people jumping from the roofs of the dormitories.

* They put up nets at some of the dorms, someone jumped anyway, died anyway.

* The company started handing out huge raises to workers but also announced plans to pull out of cities where those raises were necessary to retain workers. Instead, the company is moving a lot of operations to rural areas where those workers are from and where they can pay lower wages.

* This week they held a rally to improve worker morale and to sort of, I guess, campaign against suicide…? And at that rally, some guys were dressed as Spiderman and THE INTERNET WON’T TELL ME WHY.

* I can’t even show you the Spiderman costumes due to rights issues. So go see them here. Then come back and explain why these dudes were dressed as Spiderman.

Comments | Filed Under: foxconn china

Foxconn: riddled with controversy, swimming in cash

 by John Moe // Posted: 07/12/10 02:19 PM

The Chinese electronics manufacturer has been in the news a lot in recent: a rash of worker suicides, a wage increase to attract workers in a time when China’s economy is starting to boom, a plan to outsource operations of its worker dormitories to make them more pleasant places to live. All things that would indicate rough sledding at Foxconn. But the money keeps rolling in: $6.15 billion in June, up 21% from the previous month, 55% from the previous year. It’s really a story about global economy when you think about it: in a time of slow economic recovery, people buy gadgets.

Comments | Filed Under: china foxconn

China threatens to shut down Google, Google caves

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/29/10 12:12 PM

Google says it’s committed to not censoring its search results. China is very much committed to censorship. So it’s a stalemate that affects the search ability of increasingly wired China and a huge business opportunity for Google. A few weeks ago, Google responded by simply redirecting (China) to (Hong Kong). But now China has threatened to not renew Google’s license to operate there. Google says it will instead offer a link to .hk on .cn and cave in and censor results. China is the largest internet market in the world, its growing fast, and Google has been shut out since that Hong Kong move. Obviously, Google is caught between it’s ideals, it’s ethics, and it’s bottom line.

Comments | Filed Under: google china

Foxconn to outsource dormitories

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/25/10 12:52 PM

This NYT article puts the number of workers in Shenzhen at 420,000, the highest number I’ve heard so far.

The company said Friday that it had decided to give up its “college campus style” dormitory system in Shenzhen in the hopes that outside management companies could better integrate its workers into the local community and relieve some of the pressures of factory life.

“Providing employees with basic necessities including a safe and convenient place to live at the work site might have been sufficient in the past,” Terry Cheng, an executive vice president, said in a statement Friday. “But this arrangement no longer satisfies the needs of the young migrant workers of today.”

The decision is a sharp turnabout for Foxconn, which about five years ago opened a huge campus in Shenzhen with high-rise dormitories, restaurants, banks and recreational facilities.

Foxconn had a number of suicides among workers in recent months, mostly by young workers jumping from the high rise dormitories.

Comments | Filed Under: china foxconn

Chinese labor movement aided by technology

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/17/10 11:15 AM

The New York Times has a really interesting article about factory workers and labor unrest in China. Workers are often poor, migrant workers with little education but they have cell phones and know how to use them. They’re organizing walkouts by text message trees, uploading video of plant security guards roughing up workers on to websites that are actually controlled by the government.  They’re also getting word out about what they’re doing to sympathetic labor groups around China. It’s all made possible by a concerted effort on the part of the Chinese government to get the nation more wired and lower the cost of cell phone ownership. Once you have robust and ubiquitous communications technology, good luck trying to remain a closed society.

Comments | Filed Under: china text messages

All Foxconn operations except iPhone to leave Shenzhen

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/15/10 11:06 AM

This according to China Daily. Those that stay behind to work on iPhones (presumably the iPhone 4 for the most part although 3GS production will continue) will be paid higher wages. Other products will be made at other Foxconn facilities in outlying areas of China where the workers will be paid unspecified, presumably lower, wages. Foxconn has been announcing higher wages for a while, making one wonder how they would pay for hikes of 20, 30, sometimes 60 percent and still stay in business while keeping costs low enough to keep their contracts with American manufacturers. It makes you wonder about what kind of volume they’re expecting from iPhone sales and how central that one device is to their operation and, by extension, the future of consumer electronics. The Shenzhen plant is, of course, where a rash of suicides hit in recent months although you don’t tend to hear about as many there anymore.

Comments | Filed Under: china foxconn iphone

Foxconn ends compensation for families of suicide victims, relocates some operations.

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/09/10 11:08 AM

For a while now we’ve been hearing about increased wages for Foxconn employees, in some cases raises of up to 66%. Around here we’ve been wondering how, in an every penny counts environment like consumer electronics manufacturing, they could afford to make anything like that happen. Now we’re starting to see the other shoe drop a little bit as Foxconn announced at a shareholders meeting that they won’t be compensating the families of employees who commit suicide. It was no small amount of money they were paying out, either: ten years’ salary.

They also announced that they will be moving some manufacturing to Taiwan and Vietnam to save some money. Interestingly, Foxconn is officially a Taiwan company operating in China so within these massive city-like manufacturing plant it’s not always clear which country’s laws are applicable.

Comments | Filed Under: china foxconn

Foxconn gives raises again

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/07/10 11:06 AM

Couple of weeks ago, every day brought news of another suicide at the massive Chinese manufacturing facility. Now every day brings news of another raise for workers there. Latest news, according to Gizmodo, is that workers are getting a whopping 66% raise. But not so fast! It’s performance based and workers must pass a three month review to receive the big raise. So it’s unclear if this is just PR or an actual possibility. The 30% raise seems to be in effect across the board. Given the penny pinching of Chinese factories, one really has to wonder what this does to the manufacturing industry in China and the consumer electronics market here.

Comments | Filed Under: china foxconn

China blocking Foursquare

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/04/10 10:59 AM

China is blocking the mobile social media service Foursquare. People using/playing Foursquare use mobile devices to “check in” wherever they go and earn points or discounts as a result. The block may be related to a dramatic increase in people checking in at Tiananmen Square, site of the massacre which happened around this time in 1989. The check-ins are a form of protest.


Comments | Filed Under: china foursquare

Tech News In Brief - 6/2/10

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/03/10 11:14 AM

The Skype 3G app for iPhone is hugely popular. Free calls! Free calls! Until next year!

Umpire’s blown call ruins pitcher’s perfect game. Call out the robots!

Bill would give government ‘emergency’ power to secure civilian networks in the event of cyber attack.

Foxconn raises worker wages by up to 33%

Man and machine become one. Robot overlords encourage human subjects to stay obedient.

And a triple shot Facebook Rock Block:

Clickjacking on Facebook

Zuckerberg sweats

Mom finds kidnapped kids on Facebook

Comments | Filed Under: skype iphone baseball china robots facebook

Tech News In Brief - 5/28/10

 by John Moe // Posted: 05/28/10 11:49 AM

Foxconn to give out raises, relocate workers

Is Facebook popular? Why yes it is. More monthly page views than the next 99 most visited sites COMBINED.

iPad international launch day  - hysteria: not uniquely American.

Battle lines form in Viacom vs. YouTube battle. Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley. Jocks vs. nerds.

Irish News puts up paywall, runs into figurative wall

Microsoft keeps some security patches secret - set to release them at next Windows 7 Launch Party Reunion

One Laptop Per Child for around 100 bucks - by the time this project is realized, all the children will be elderly adults.

Congress develops interest in synthetic microbes that make and eat oil. “HURRY UP!” says BP.

Herb Kohl loves Hulu.

Japanese robot moon base! JAPANESE ROBOT MOON BASE!

Comments | Filed Under: china facebook ipad video newspapers microsoft robots

More suicides at Foxconn

Posted: 05/28/10 08:31 AM

We last talked about the suicides at the Foxconn facilities in China only a week ago. But since that time the death toll has risen and Foxconn has been scrambling to respond and prevent future fatalities. Foxconn is the company that assembles many of the consumer electronics you may own, like smart phones, tablets, video game consoles. We follow up with Endgadget’s Laura June about reports of workers being asked to sign a pledge not to commit suicide (a pledge the company later retracted and apologized for). Laura also tells us of the increased number of counselors on site and the reported installation of nets being placed beneath the tall dormitories from which many workers have been jumping.

For understanding of how the phenomenon of suicide is different in China than in the United States, we speak to Dr. Eric Caine. chair of Department of Psychiatry at University of Rochester Medical Center and co-director of Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide.

Apple, HP, and Dell are all major partners with Foxconn and have all recently said that they would be investigating conditions there. We asked each company what specifically they planned to do. Here are their responses:




Comments | Filed Under: china hp apple dell

Apple statement on Foxconn

 by John Moe // Posted: 05/27/10 05:01 PM

Apple, HP, and Dell are all major partners with Foxconn and have all recently said that they would be investigating conditions there. We asked each company what specifically they planned to do. Here is the response from an Apple spokesperson:

We are saddened and upset by the recent suicides at Foxconn.  Apple is deeply committed to ensuring that conditions throughout our supply chain are safe and workers are treated with respect and dignity.  We are in diret contact with Foxconn’s senior management and we believe they are taking this matter very seriously.  A team from Apple is independently evaluating the steps they are taking to address these tragic events and we will continue our ongoing inspections of the facilities where our products are made.

Comments | Filed Under: china apple

Dell statement on Foxconn

 by John Moe // Posted: 05/27/10 04:59 PM

Apple, HP, and Dell are all major partners with Foxconn and have all recently said that they would be investigating conditions there. We asked each company what specifically they planned to do. Here is the response from a Dell spokesperson:

We are investigating the situation in the Foxconn facility. Any reports of poor working conditions in Dell’s supply chain are investigated and, if warranted, appropriate action is taken. We are speaking with Foxconn to understand the circumstances and how they are responding. We expect our suppliers to employ the same high standards we do in our own facilities. We enforce these standards through a variety of tools, including the Electronics Industry code of conduct, business reviews with suppliers, self-assessments and audits.

We don’t intend to share the substance of our conversations with Foxconn as we consider our relationships with vendors to be confidential.

Comments | Filed Under: china

HP statement on Foxconn

 by John Moe // Posted: 05/27/10 04:57 PM

Apple, HP, and Dell are all major partners with Foxconn and have all recently said that they would be investigating conditions there. We asked each company what specifically they planned to do. Here is the response from an HP spokesperson:

HP is a recognized leader in supply chain social and environmental responsibility, and has high standards in place with our suppliers to ensure workers are treated with dignity and respect and operate in safe work environments. As with all concerns that are raised about our suppliers, HP is investigating the Foxconn practices that may be associated with these tragic events.

Comments | Filed Under: china

Tech News In Brief - 5/27/10

 by John Moe // Posted: 05/27/10 11:16 AM

Another suicide at Foxconn . And why stopping it is so hard.

Google goes to war with Germany over collected data.

Yahoo plans to go big on local

Ballmer at WWDC? Will June 7th be upside down bananas day?

Well, looks like I won’t be reading on the bus anymore. I’ll be watching TV.

Americans get cell phone bills. “WHAT THE–?!” say Americans.

“Play videogames, kids!” says lightened up former Supreme Court Justice.

The internet is getting crowded - we’re running out of IP addresses. Also glaciers.

Comments | Filed Under: china apple google yahoo microsoft phones video games

Another suicide in China

 by John Moe // Posted: 05/26/10 05:07 PM

It’s getting increasingly difficult to keep up with all the suicides that are happening at Foxconn plants in China. Foxconn is the company that runs factories with hundreds of thousands of workers building personal electronic devices for companies like Apple, HP, Dell, Nokia, and more. Today there was another one, this time in Longhua instead of in Shenzhen where most had taken place this year. It looks like this is the eleventh such death this year, to go with numerous attempts. Engadget:

This latest death comes just hours after the news that Foxconn employees were very recently asked to sign a letter saying that the company would pay no more than legal minimum wage for “injuries sustained outside the workplace.” The letter, which was made public early this morning, caused Chairman of Hon Hai to say they were “taking it back” as the language was inappropriate.

We talked about this issue just last week on the show but it seems like we should revisit it to some degree.

Comments | Filed Under: china

Tech News In Brief - 5/26/10

 by John Moe // Posted: 05/26/10 11:10 AM

Apple worth more than Microsoft? So do TRUE hipsters have to start using Zunes?

But Apple is being investigated by the Feds for being too hardball in iTunes store.

Zuckerberg to announce Facebook privacy changes . 10:30 pacific. But you probably already knew that by hacking into his account.

Foxconn makes workers sign a pledge not to kill themselves . This after the 9th suicide this year at the factory in Shenzhen, China.

Wired on the iPad - only…five…dollars.

Holiday Inn tests songs for room keys - I hope I don’t get Witchy Woman.

Street View cars still causing Google trouble

Scientist becomes first human infected with computer virus On the bright side, Morpheus will come rescue you eventually.

Comments | Filed Under: apple china ipad microsoft

Tech News In Brief - 5/25/10

 by John Moe // Posted: 05/25/10 11:43 AM

Twitter wants money from businesses and media companies. Those Fail Whale ropes aren’t cheap.

Wal-Mart cuts price of iPhone 3GS to $97 Comes with a built in app for kicking yourself for not waiting for the new iPhone coming out next month.

Engadget looks at the tweets of some actors and decides the new iPhone will definitely have video chat. Which, okay.

Facebook being used by birth parents to track down adopted children. Public profiles being public and all.

AT&T makes Wi-Fi free in Times Square

Firefox add-on lets you remove all mention of Justin Bieber from your internet experience. At last, technology has matured.

Another suicide at Foxconn . Ninth suicide this year.

Facebook privacy controls change tomorrow .

Congress will review Communications Law. Current legislation was established way before the computer was invented.

Stoplights stop your engine. Sure, let’s give the robots control of our cars. What’s the worst that could happen?

Comments | Filed Under: twitter apple iphone facebook firefox china government

Suicides in China

Posted: 05/21/10 09:42 AM

This week we learned of another suicide in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, at the Foxconn plant. Foxconn produces a lot of electronics that might be in your home. They make iPhones and iPods for Apple, as well as products from HP, Motorola, Nokia, Palm, and they make the Amazon Kindle. This was the seventh suicide at Foxconn since the first of the year. Foxconn says there have been at least 30 suicide attempts there just in the last month. For a glimpse into the culture and environment of these factories, we spoke to Alexandra Harney, author of  The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage. She joins us from Hong Kong.

Read Chinese reporter Liu Zhiyu’s account of going undercover as a Foxconn worker.

Comments | Filed Under: china

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