Students should be aware of companies labor practices abroad

Last week’s Engineering Career Fair brought Foxconn, one of the world’s largest electronics manufacturers, to campus. Foxconn employs more than one million people in China and produces iPads, iPhones and many other popular electronics. This company has gotten a lot of negative media attention over the last few years, and for good reason. Reports from workers and labor advocates have documented a wide range of labor abuses.

Workers at Foxconn have reported working 12-hour shifts everyday, sometimes more, with just one day off every two weeks. Workers often sit or stand in the same spot throughout their shift, performing the same movements thousands of times each day. On the iPad assembly lines, workers use toxic n-hexane to clean screens, because it evaporates faster than alcohol, running production lines faster. This is despite the fact that hundreds have come forward with health problems from n-hexane poisoning.

Last year, two explosions at iPad factories, caused by a build up of aluminum dust in ventilation ducts, killed four people and injured 77. Apple and Foxconn were made aware of this safety hazard by a labor advocacy group before the explosions but did not fix the problem.

These horrible working conditions make life unbearable for many workers. In 2010, 19-year-old Ma Xiangqian jumped to his death from the top of a high rise Foxconn dormitory. In the month before his death, Ma worked 286 hours, including 112 overtime hours. This is three times more than the legal overtime limit in China. He made about $1 an hour, even with overtime pay. In the next couple of months, at least 12 more workers attempted suicide. Foxconn responded by installing nets on the sides of their buildings to catch jumpers and forced employees to sign anti-suicide agreements.

Foxconn has shown a callous disregard for workers lives and well-being, despite making $943.72 million in profits in 2011. The company has destroyed lives and therefore should not be welcome on our campus. Students need to be more aware of the policies of companies they seek jobs with. Our university’s motto is learning and labor. We should live up to that by sending a strong message of opposition to sweatshop companies such as Foxconn.

_Rebecca Marcotte,

senior in Engineering._