If you spent any time at all on the internet this week you know that Apple unveiled the iPhone 5 yesterday. The official intro video is embedded above. But it left something out: the fact that vo-tech students in China were forced to work for free on assembly lines at Foxconn to meet Apple’s high demands for the phone — which included much smaller components so that it could pack more features inside.
Reports the NY Times:
Foxconn has acknowledged using student “interns” on manufacturing lines, but says they are free to leave at any time. But two worker advocacy groups said Monday that they had spoken with students who said they had been forced by their teachers to assemble iPhones at a Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, in north-central China.
Additionally, last week Chinese state-run news media reported that several vocational schools in the city of Huai’an, in eastern China, required hundreds of students to work on assembly lines at a Foxconn plant to help ease worker shortages. According to one of the articles, Huai’an students were ordered to manufacture cables for Apple’s new iPhone 5, which is expected to be introduced on Wednesday.
“They said they are forced to work by the teachers,” Li Qiang, founder of China Labor Watch, one of the advocacy organizations and a frequent critic of Foxconn’s labor policies, said in an interview on Monday. Mr. Li said his staff had spoken with multiple workers and students who, as recently as Sunday, said that 10 of 87 workers on an iPhone assembly line were students.
“They don’t want to work there — they want to learn,” said Mr. Li. “But if they don’t work, they are told they will not graduate, because it is a very busy time with the new iPhone coming, and Foxconn does not have enough workers without the students.”
Look, we’ve been over this before and I know every piece of technology I own was probably built, at least in part, by Asians working in sweatshops. But this is…look, I’m just putting this out there. Consumers need to know where the stuff they buy comes from. You can make your own decisions from there.