Just when positive news about Foxhound’s efforts in improving the working conditions of its Sheehan factories for the workers and increasing wages was heard this year, the worker’s riots in September 23, 2012 at the Foxhound’s Taiwan (Shania) factory sparked another global outcry (Roberts, 2012). Foxing is a multinational company based in Taiwan and is one of the world’s largest electronics manufacturing company. One of the major clients of Foxing is Apple; others include Sony and Hewlett Packard (Wisped, 012).
According to reports by China Labor Watch (201 2), some of the unfair treatment and exploitation carried out by Foxing factories in China include “excessive overtime hours, forcing workers to work ‘voluntary overtime, maintaining an extremely high level of work intensity by setting the daily production quotas, exercise discrimination by hiring only young and healthy workers, and creating a system in which official resignation is nearly impossible and the only way out is to ‘voluntarily/ resign hence forfeiting a significant amount of their final wages (China Labor Watch, 2012).
Due to increasing pressures from the media coverage of the suicide cases of its workers and from its image-conscious client (Apple Inc), it was claimed that Foxing had made efforts to improve working conditions by increasing wages of workers and instituting a program called “Care-Love” (Northern, Culpa and Ghent, 2011). However, after Foxhound’s suicide incidents subsided, in 23 September 201 2, it was announced that Foxing Taiwan factory had to shut down production for the day due to rioting of the workers. The event involves around 2000 workers, with more than 40 hospitalized.
It was reported that he riot was sparked off by a dispute between two workers, but most likely due to tensions between the guards and workers (Roberts, 2012). This was because the originally insignificant argument between the workers escalated into a riot involving the collective rebellion of thousands of workers only after the security guards of Foxing interfered aggressively with force, causing the situation to get out of hand to the point of requiring 5000 policemen to be dispatched to control the angry workers (Pilling, 2012).
This riot has raised concerns about Foxhound’s harsh and heavy-handed ways in managing the errors as mentioned by Geoffrey Charcoal, Research Director at Hong Songs China Labor Bulletin. It was reported that the guards constantly monitored the workers closely and spoke fiercely to them in an authoritative manner. There were no communication between the workers and guards, whereby the workers were expected to follow orders and rules without knowing the reasons (Roberts, 2012).
Also, the workers work long hours and sleep in dormitories with poor conditions (Ho and Culpa, 2012). It was suspected that the Foxing Taiwan factory workers were forced to work overtime hours to et up with the production due to the recent launch of Apple’s phones (Pilling 2012). According to a worker interviewed, it was known that Foxing has shifted its production of phones to the factory in Taiwan (Ho and Culpa, 201 2) and its Sheehan factories were now focused on product development (Roberts, 2012).
Hence, it seems like though Foxing did improve the situation in its Sheehan factories, its efforts were only limited to the two factories in Sheehan and the other in Changed that were under inspection by Fair Labor Association and under extensive media coverage, hill neglecting its other factories distributed around China. Foxing has around a million workers working in its 13 factories in China (Yen, 2012) and has been expanding its factories into provinces located in the interior of China such as Taiwan, Squeezing, Human and Cocooning (Roberts, 2012).
The shift in production may be because labor is about one-third cheaper in inner provinces of China (Northern, Culpa and Ghent, 2011 Sociological Interpretations for the Foxing Worker Riots The workers’ riots in Foxing Taiwan factory could be understood from many perspectives, however it all boils down to modernization and capitalism which gave rise to a complex division of labor with an exploitative nature. It all started the rise of a new international division of labor, one that was characterized by the relationship between post-industrial nations and newly industrialized nations, based on exploitation (Serene, 2006).
In fact, according to Marxist theory, the underlying logic of capitalism is exploitation (Howard, 2002). While capitalists (owners of production) compete to stay competitive and to achieve the most profit, workers compete to offer the cheapest labor possible, often driven to the level of subsistence. This IS because in this global ere market economy, it is determined based on the survival of the fittest. When there are winners, there will always be losers.
We can view this international division of labor as a cycle in which on one side post industrial nations continuously experience wealth accumulation through the services and investments they provide via products manufactured with minimum cost, while on the other side the newly industrialized nations are continuously being exploited through their provision of cheap labor and resources (Serene, 2006). However, nations are also interdependent based on modernization and dependency theories.
Modernization theory states that “modernity is needed for the economy to prosper and thus nations need modern technology to break out of poverty” (Serene, 2006). Developing nations need to open up and welcome foreign capital into their market as they will bring in the needed expertise and necessary technology to prosper. Thus, newly industrialized nations compete to attract transnational companies to invest and set up factories in their nations. However, these means offering the cheapest labor possible.
At the same time, dependency theory states that the poorer and newly industrialized nations were pendent on the post industrial nations, as they brought jobs needed for survival and capital to drive the economy, which also brought domination and exploitation (Serene, 2006). Hence, based on the case in the previous section, it can be interpreted from this international division of labor that Apple Inc seems to be the biggest winner, while Foxing is second to it and the major losers would be the China workers. Apple is the capitalist owner that owns and controls all the products under its brand such as phone 5.
In order to achieve the greatest efficiency and lowest production cost, Apple adopts the dead of outsourcing based on the division of labor and national specialization, whereby every an phone is actually a global effort (Serene, 2006). E. G. The phones start out being developed and designed by Apple engineers in California, the sourcing of the components and materials stretch out to different parts of the world, using parts from nine major suppliers in five countries and then assembled by Foxing in China (The Straits Times, 2012). Thus, Foxhound’s role is simply just one of the manufacturers employed by Apple to assemble its products.
Apple has the biggest share of the profits, to Foxing. Whereby Apple is the overarching power, dominating Foxing, in turn Foxing dominates the workers due to pressure from Apple to meet production demands and cost budget. In the case illustrated, the workers in Foxing Taiwan factories were rushing out the phones for Apple, due to increasing popularity leading to increasing demands since the launch of the phones. With the market mechanism driven by demand and supply, Apple had to keep up with the demands of their products by producing enough supply.
Foxing had no choice but to exploit its workers by making them ark overtime hours of almost 80 hours per month, past the legal limit of 36 hours with hourly wage of around 1 Euro (Deutsche Well, 201 2), and workers were required to sign an overtime working agreement prior to employment that claims that Foxing is not responsible for their long hours of working. This voluntary agreement was actually used to overrule Chinese State regulation (Change, 2010). The reason was due to the competitive nature bred in the capitalist system and free market economy.
Adam Smith mentioned that competition drives efficiency, but Marx also mentioned that capitalism reared a continual crisis of profit for owners (Serene, 2006). Indeed, due to increasing competition from competitors such as Samsung, rising up with its Samsung Galaxy SO, Apple felt the pressure to speed up its productivity’ and at the same time maintaining the affordability Of its products. Like all Other multinational corporations, Apple is constantly in search for manufacturers that would allow it to incur the lowest cost. Hence, if Foxing proved to be no longer competitive in offering the lowest manufacturing cost, it will soon be replaced.
Driven by competition and desire for profit too, Foxing had to maintain business contacts with Apple and remain attractive to investors and outsourcing companies by constantly relocating its factories to cheaper venues once wages cost too high, even if it means exploiting the workers in order to stay viable. This is because it was either Foxing passing the cost of the products on to the customers like Apple which obviously will deter them away, resulting in loss of profits, or Foxing trying to reduce the cost of the product.
Hence, since most production cost including distribution and physical materials are rather inelastic, the only way was to reduce manufacturing costs and this was passed on to the workers meaning lesser wages with more work done (China Labor Watch, 2012). Next, this brings us to the role of the newly industrialized countries (Nick) in this international division of labor, countries that actually compete to attract these capitalists like Apple and Foxing, to relocate their manufacturing plants in their countries with abundant cheap labor. One of the Nick would be China.
We can try to understand this worldwide competition to be driven by the idea of comparative advantage introduced by David Richard (Serene, 2006). After China’s communist leader, Eden Ixia Ping launched the open door policy in China (Chance, 201 0), China obviously had a comparative advantage over the other countries with its huge supply of low cost and unrecognized peasant workers, due to the introduction Of the household based contract system (Stating Launch Changeable Zeroing) that allowed millions of peasant workers from the rural areas to work in urban factories set up by transnational companies (Chance, 2010).
China joined in the global competition characterized by the phenomenon “race to the bottom” (Serene, 2006), gather with other countries to compete to offer the lowest labor cost possible. That was also the start of the widespread labor exploitation in China by the multinational corporations (Macs). Like the other Macs, Foxing saw China’s abundant cheap labor attractive. Foxing Taiwan factory is just one of the many factories Foxing has in China.
According to dependency theory, China allowed Foxing to exploit its workers as the state depended on Foxing to create jobs. This can be understood with modernization theory too, whereby Foxing locating their factories in China ill bring in the technology needed to modernize, income to the state through taxation, and create jobs for their people who will help drive their economy. Modernization and dependency tend to happen side by side (Serene, 2006).
Hence, the dependency between the state of China, Foxing and Apple in the division of labor as explained above and the competitive nature of the capitalist system adopted throughout the world, resulted in exploitation of the workers in Foxing Taiwan factory to be an inevitable consequence of the free market economy. Exploitation led to build up pressure in the workers causing them to riot. This can be understood from Marxist theory of rising class consciousness (Serene, 2006).
Capitalism resulted in growing divide among the people between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, the people that own and control production and those who could only obey orders silently. Hence, there was a class division in Foxing itself, a division between the exploited workers and the managers, supervisors, guards and all those who have control over the workers. These workers felt oppressed. Their every action was monitored closely by the guards who often use violence on them if they did not obey the ales and orders (Ho and Culpa, 2012).
The manager criticized those that too slow and did a bad job, however good performance was never praised. Hence, workers knew they would never advance no matter how hard they work. There was no freedom of speech, only obedience. There was even a slogan hung on the factory walls, “Outside the laboratory, there is no high technology, there is only obedience and discipline” as a kind of corporate culture Foxing promote (Deutsche Well, 2012). However, the workers did not quit their jobs due to their position as vulnerable deskilled workers which an be understood from Marxist theory (Serene, 2006).
They worked up to a minimum of 10 hours a day on their routine monotonous work at high intensity, only stopping to eat and sleep (Change, 2010). Overtime, their deskilling work makes them vulnerable as they were easily replaced. Thus, the workers were willing to get exploited rather than lose their jobs. The heavy staff turnover also makes long-lasting relationships impossible, their whole day were spent on nothing but working, left with no time to socialize at all. They came from rural parts of China and live in the on-site dormitories, far away from their families.
With no social safety net, these workers have no place to turn to if they lose their jobs which makes them even more vulnerable and manipulative by the capitalists. The assembly-line work had slowly euthanized the workers (Ramey, 2010). Slowly, a sense of alienation was developed in the workers (Serene, 2006). While the cost of living had increased, their income only managed to increase slightly. The Foxing workers were working on parts of the phone that meant nothing to them as they could not afford them at all.
Overtime, these alienated and oppressed workers felt greater solidarity as they belonged to the same exploited class. It was a sense of organic solidarity among the workers, according to Druthers (Serene, 2006). At the same time, with the increased influence of communication devices, social media and increased level of education, there was growing awareness of the better lifestyle richer people around China and other parts of the world led, causing a build-up of dissatisfaction and increased class consciousness.
The young workers in Foxing were generally better educated; hence they were more aware and assertive of their rights and had higher expectations for work (Roberts, 2012). All these feelings within he workers had contributed to the riot on 23 September 2012. When the guards of Foxing Taiwan factory used force to attempt to control the workers’ dispute, it led to the outburst of the growing dissatisfaction of the workers with more than 2000 workers joining in to rebel (Ho and Culpa, 2012).
Recently, there had been news that another 3,000 – 4,000 workers were involved in a strike in Foxing Squeezing factory on 5 October, 201 2, Friday afternoon. The reasons were suspected to be due to the unhappiness from the “over-exacting quality controls and demands to work through the week- Eng National Day holidays” (Reuters, 2012). Hence, it seems like it is evident that there is a growing class consciousness among the Foxing workers due to reasons as explained above. Also, probably due to uprising of riots in China that made them feel embolden and the need to rise up using collective efforts to make their rights known.
Globalization and the Widespread Exploitation of Labor in China Globalization has allowed the boundaries of national borders to be broken down, it was no longer about individual states, and instead they have integrated into one single global economy (Chance, 2010). The resultant effect was that the global economy has divided the world into only TV classes. The powerful core, made up of wealthy nations, the state government, transnational companies that continuously experience wealth accumulation, and the neglected periphery, made up of struggling poor nations and the working class people who are exploited by the powerful core (Serene, 2006).
With this phenomenon, the people could no longer find themselves being protected by the state, because in this global economy, there are only two choices: to be neglected at the periphery or to join the powerful core. Hence, with globalization and the widespread capitalism, the states have decided to join the powerful core with the other elites, helping the multinational companies fulfill their insatiable greed for profit, in turn helping themselves fulfill their own needs and wants, ultimately for profit too.
The widespread exploitation of the China workers in Foxing all boils down to the state of China being in cahoots with Foxing to fulfill their greed for profits in this one big global economy. Hence, there is a high possibility that the problem lies in the ineffective enforcement of law by the authorities in China. The reason behind this conclusion is the question of why the state did nothing to stop the exploitation of its people, despite being aware of the situation and why no one had successfully filed a lawsuit against Foxing (Yen, 2012).
China adopts a socio-political system incorporating ideas of the capitalist system, free market system and party-state authoritarianism; with different government branches integrated together to ensure the centralization of power. This is to enable easy penetration into the judicial system to undermine justice. Hence, it is not possible for checks and balances ender the centralized system China creates, which makes it very convenient for the authorities who have close relationship with Foxing to manipulate according to their benefits (Yen, 2012).
Apteral, China would not hope to force Foxing to retreat from China with all its factories and investments, when Foxing is such a major taxpayer to China and that would mean that more than a million of its people working in these Foxing factories will be unemployed. However, there is the possibility that the exploited workers could harness the power of globalization, to effectively utilize the influence of he new media to let their situation and rights be known.
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