By John C Abell
Much has been written about conditions at Foxconn, the embattled Chinese manufacturer for Apple and a host of other hardware companies. But only a couple of reporters have had access to one of the sprawling company’s factory floors: Joel Johnson wrote Wired’s March 2011 cover story, “1 Million Workers. 90 Million iPhones. 17 Suicides. Who’s to Blame?” after visiting the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen. Now Rob Schmitz, Shanghai Bureau Chief of American Public Media’s Marketplace, has also visited the Longhua facility in that city, spoke to dozens of workers and came back with a video that includes shots of the iPad assembly line and hoards of prospective employees lining up outside to get a job.
Schmitz’s reporting is neither glowing nor inflammatory but does add to the minuscule first-hand information about Foxconn from disinterested sources. And — no surprise here — he was clearly taken by the scale of the facility.
“The first misconception I had about Foxconn’s Longhua facility in the city of Shenzhen was that I’ve always called it a ‘factory’ — technically, it is,” he writes in a Reporter’s Notebook. “But after you enter the gates and walk around, you quickly realize that it’s also a city — 240,000 people work here. Nearly 50,000 of them live on campus in shared dorm rooms.”
Schmitz was of course not permitted to roam alone but he did seem to have some candid exchanges with workers and even with his tour guide, Louis Woo, described as a special a