Foxconn woes have U.S. ripple effects

A Foxconn factory in Tucheng, Taipei county.

Kai Ryssdal:There's an manufacturing plant in southern China that's been making grisly headlines this year. Ten workers at the massive factory have killed themselves since January, the most recent just last night. While you've probably never heard of Foxconn, you may actually know it better than you think. It's the biggest contract maker of electronics in the world.

We asked Marketplace's Alisa Roth how Foxconn's problems might affect its clients.


Alisa Roth: The name Foxconn may not mean much to you. But these names probably do: Apple, HP, Dell, Sony. Foxconn makes products for them, including the iPhone, PlayStation and the Kindle. And those companies' reputations are on the line.

Marsha Dickson's a professor at the University of Delaware. She says manufacturing plants may be thousands of miles from consumers, but what happens there matters to companies like Apple.

Marsha Dickson: Who wants their company name drug through the dirt for death, for accidents, for child labor, for excessively low wages?

She says consumers have long memories, which means companies need to pay attention to everything.

Dickson: Whether it's quality specifications, whether it's cost or whether it's in compliance to their standards for working conditions.

It can be hard for companies to keep track of what manufacturers are doing, though. Even before this recent series of suicides, Foxconn had been accused of mistreating its workers.

Daniel Ernst is an analyst at Hudson Square Research. He follows Apple and other companies, and he says Foxconn will have to change.

Daniel Ernst: The bad news is tragedy has happened, but the good news is, there's been a response and the companies involved here are so large and so global that it's not easily swept under the rug.

Apple and other clients say they've toured Foxconn's facilities and are working with the company to resolve the problems there.

I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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