August 1st, 2017
The first glowing positive public headline read “Apple will make products (iPhones and iPads) in the U.S.” Yea! Good news, right? Maybe not so. Reading the details revealed that one of Apple’s major manufacturers in China, the Tawainese company Foxconn, was searching for an American location. Not Apple itself — its contracted manufacturer. Apple not only makes its gizmos offshore; it hoardes millions in profits offshore to avoid a US tax bill.
Foxconn, the astute reader remembers, was rendered infamous years ago when it coerced a spate of employee suicides. Investigations uncovered the fact that young workers were crammed into tiny employer-provided apartments too many for the space allotted. (Think factory towns under total employer control.) Then, at the worksite, the workers were forbidden to speak with one another on the Apple products assembly line. The prohibition extended to any talking, not gossip or non-work-related communications — any interpersonal contact!!!!
Worker have a fundamental human need to belong to groups, to be included. When that need is thwarted in cases of social exclusion or ostracism, individuals suffer social harm. Neuroscience research reveals that the social pain endured is real pain — the kind taking painkillers will reduce. Hence, the suicide by jumping off the roof of Foxconn buildings in China.
Foxconn institutionally abused its workers for some unknown reason. The solution to their suicide “problem” — probably considered nothing more than a public relations crisis — was to install netting to catch the jumpers before hitting the ground below. Great fix, huh? No need to attack the root cause — the Foxconn policy and practice. Better to simply minimize the deaths by suicide with “safety” nets. Stupid (or as Trump would say “Sad!).
Foxconn couldn’t convince Pennsylvania to give them a substantial prize for the locating there. But union-busting Scott Walker delivered Wisconsin. As the following report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel states, the state will pony up $3 billion of taxpayer funds to entice the company to locate in either Racine or Kenosha counties. Further, the full-control Foxconn style practiced in China is likely to be replicated, or attempted, in Wisconsin. The newspaper story stated that the “factory project would involve a virtual village, with housing, stores and service businesses spread over at least 1,000 acres.” That is, employer-controlled housing.
Will Americans be willing to cram 10-15 people into spaces designed for two or three? Or will the company simply provide gymnasium-size quarters with cots so workers can sleep up to 6 hours before getting back to the assembly line?
Most important, watch to see how they manage interpersonal relations in the factory. Will Foxconn prohibit workers from talking to one another as they did in China? There’s not a single U.S. labor law to prevent it. [The Wisconsin legislature in the session immediately prior to Walker and the Republican takeover, not only sponsored the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill, it held hearings I attended. The bill did not pass, but at least workers’ rights were on the lawmakers’ agenda. Now, not so much.] And Walker and his Republican thugs have paralyzed once union-proud Wisconsites into fear of union organizing.
Watch for the proactive installation of nets to catch suicide leapers in Wisconsin. Why do we let this happen in America????
Read the Journal Sentinel article that follows.