On Wednesday, April 11, EPI hosted the forum, A closer look at Apple and FoxConn: Labor practices in China and Brazil. Five distinguished panelists led a discussion about labor practices at Apple’s Foxconn factories and evaluated Apple’s recent labor rights pledges in light of their actual track record.
Introduction: Ross Eisenbrey, EPI Vice President
Panelist No. 1: Debby Chan, Project Officer, Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehavior
Panelist No. 2: Luis Carlos de Oliveira, Vice President, Metalworkers Union of Jundiai, Brazil (Part 1)
Panelist No. 3: Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America
Panelist No. 4: Scott Nova, Executive Director, Worker Rights Consortium
Panelist No. 5: Li Qiang, Executive Director, China Labor Watch
- Summary of remarks by Scott Nova (Word document): Apple, Reputational Risk and the Prospects for Labor Rights Reform
- Presentation by Debby Chan (PowerPoint file): Behind the Scene of Apple: Workers on the production line of Foxconn
- Statement from Li Qiang (Word document): Keeping Pressure on Apple to Promote Real Changes at Apple and Foxconn
China vs. Brazil: Comparison of labor rights and workplace conditions at Foxconn
- Blog posts: Apple’s employees in China don’t work 70 hours a week because they want to | Fair Labor Association report leaves big questions about change at Apple/Foxconn | Who’s guarding Apple’s Foxconn chicken coop?
- Video of Ross Eisenbrey discussing Apple and Foxconn on WebProNews:
Since a pair of articles in the New York Times detailed egregious labor rights abuses at factories operated by Foxconn, Apple’s largest supplier, labor practices in Apple’s supply chain have been the focus of major national attention. In response, Apple joined the Fair Labor Association, an association that is funded by the corporations it monitors, and asked it to conduct an audit of Foxconn factories in China. The report, which was issued on March 29, confirmed many of the violations previously found by independent investigators, but it also suggested that conditions at Foxconn plants in China are not as bad as Apple’s critics have alleged and praised Apple and Foxconn for agreeing to a remediation plan. Labor rights advocates are skeptical that Apple and Foxconn will clean up their act, something they have promised and then failed to do in the past.
In comparison to the abusive and illegal conditions at Foxconn’s plants in China, workers at Foxconn plants in Brazil benefit from collective bargaining agreements and from wage, hour and benefit laws that are not only in place, but which are enforced with the help of local unions. Foxconn’s record in Brazil shows that Apple and Foxconn are capable of making products under lawful conditions at decent wages when the local environment requires it – and that Apple and Foxconn have been taking advantage of Chinese workers simply because they believe they can get away with it.
- Debby Chan, Project Officer, Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehavior: Debby Chan is the project officer overseeing investigations of Foxconn for the Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM). SACOM originated from a students’ movement devoted to improving the labor conditions of cleaning workers and security guards under the outsourcing policy. SACOM aims to bring concerned students, scholars, labor activists, and consumers together to monitor corporate behavior and to advocate for workers’ rights.
- Luis Carlos de Oliveira, Vice President, Metalworkers Union of Jundiai, Brazil: Luis Carlos de Oliveira is the vice president of the Metalworkers Union of Jundiai, Brazil, which represents the workers making Apple iPhones and iPads at Foxconn’s factory in Jundiai. Oliveira studied law at the Anchieta University and completed his graduate studies in Labor Law and Procedure. In 2000, he joined the executive committee of the Metalworkers Union.
- Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America: Larry Cohen is the president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the largest telecommunications union in the world. CWA represents workers in a wide range of industries, including broadcast television, journalism, manufacturing, airlines, customer service, government service, health care, and education. Even before he was elected CWA’s president in 2005, Larry expanded alliances with CWA’s counterpart unions in Latin America, Europe and Asia, and served as president of the 2.5 million-member Union Network International (UNI) Telecom Sector from 2001 until 2007. He continues to serve on the UNI World Executive Board.
- Scott Nova, Executive Director, Worker Rights Consortium: Scott Nova is the founding Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), a non-profit organization that investigates working conditions in factories around the world that produce goods for the US market. The WRC promotes compliance with internationally recognized labor standards on behalf of more than 175 universities and colleges and is the only factory-monitoring organization operating on a global level that accepts no funding from industry. A public interest advocate for more than twenty years, Nova specializes in international trade, labor rights, and corporate accountability issues and has written and spoken widely on these subjects.
- Li Qiang, Executive Director, China Labor Watch: Li Qiang founded China Labor Watch, a New York-based independent nonprofit organization, in 2000. Through investigative reports and frequent press releases on labor news, China Labor Watch provides the international community with an accurate picture of the labor situation in China and is frequently cited in international media. Its investigations are conducted by a network of labor activists in China and advised by scholars, lawyers and activists around the world. CLW, among other labor organizations Li helped establish, provides free legal counsel and community training classes to workers in the Pearl River Delta region of China. They also collaborate with corporations to ensure implementation of corporate responsibility standards in corporate supply chains.