At Foxconn, workers union gets teeth

iPad assembly line workers prepare for their shift at Foxconn's Longhua facility in Shenzhen. Workers will soon vote on union representation, a requirement from an audit by the Fair Labor Association.

In the past, Foxconn's workers union didn't represent workers. It was controlled by upper management. Now because of pressure from Apple, Foxconn's workers will vote for better representation.  

"They're requiring us to take control of the union, which is great. But how much of a voice will we really have once we've done that?" says Li Shihong, who assembles iPads at one of Foxconn's largest factories in Shenzhen.

Auret Van Heerden heads the Fair Labor Association, whose audit of Foxconn is directing these changes. Van Heerden wonders if workers will even bother to vote: 

"Workers might see it as an inconvenience, you know? One thing we need to get clear is why should I vote? What can they do for me? And will it be worth it?" says Van Heerden. 

According to Van Heerden, it's possible one of the first demands of the new union will be to work more overtime hours. Apple has reduced hours for its Chinese suppliers -- an unpopular move with many Foxconn workers.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...