Foxconn Invades America

by Matt Klassen on November 9, 2012

Apple’s infamous manufacturing partner Foxconn, known lately for its abhorrent labour practices in China, is said to be planning on expanding its manufacturing empire to the United States. According to a report from semi-reliable tech site DigiTimes, the Taiwanese company is evaluating certain sites across the country to determine their eligibility for Foxconn’s rumoured expansion.

The sites, purported to include Los Angeles, CA and Detroit, MI, will likely not house any Apple manufacturing, however, given the fact that such products still require significant human engagement–and as we already know, human engagement costs money (or it should). Instead the rumoured manufacturing plants are expected to focus on the construction of LCD televisions, given that such a production line could almost be completely automated.

But given the negative press Foxconn has generated for itself will the company be able to establish itself here in North America? While the company has experience providing safe working conditions and fair labour practices in countries that demand it, having Foxconn on our home soil might just be enough firepower ethical watchdog groups need to really put the pressure on the Taiwanese company.

For all my lambasting of Foxconn for its unethical labour practices over the years, I have found relatively sparse documentation that Foxconn is actually doing anything illegal in China, apart from a recent controversial child labour scandal. So while I’m sure that some people will be up in arms that Foxconn is bringing the same disastrous working standards here to America, don’t be so sure. Foxconn already has manufacturing plants in other countries where workers are treated fairly and paid reasonably, so I have no doubt that the same would happen here.

What I would expect to see, however, is for Foxconn to come under intense regulatory scrutiny, not only because of its tarnished reputation from its practices in China, but also as part of the American government’s foreign ownership witch hunt, which recently saw Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei blacklisted for their supposed link to the Chinese government.

Further, given the company’s reputation, I would be interested to see how consumers react to Foxconn’s presence here, given that having the company so close to home might serve as a focal point for the righteous indignation of the masses regarding labour practices overseas. As I’ve said before, it’s easy not to care about an issue when it’s on the other side of the world; it’s more difficult to ignore it when it sets up shop next store.

However, before we start lighting our torches, grabbing the pitchforks and strolling down to the local Foxconn plant, it should be noted that all this remains speculation. Given the chequered credentials of the tech site DigiTimes and the fact that the report cites unknown “market watchers” for this insight, it’s unclear where any of this insider information has come from. That said, I’ll update you on the story when more information is available.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

{ 1 comment }

Jordan Richardson November 9, 2012 at 10:59 am

There actually are documented cases of Foxconn breaking the law in China.

One recent case found that Foxconn hired workers as young as 14 to help cover a “shortfall” in the production of the Wii U. The legal working age in China is 16. According to some reports (easy to find with a simple Google search), Foxconn forced the 14-year-olds to work at the plant for “extra credit” at school. If they quit their “jobs,” they faced expulsion from school. This is generally how the story goes with China’s many vocational schools, but in, say, “ideal” cases the workers hired are of legal age.

To its credit, Foxconn admitted breaking Chinese labour law in the case and “returned” the students after three weeks.

There is also documentation of illegal overtime and unpaid wages at Foxconn.

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