Everyone and their mother is out there searching for the best deal. First it was coupons in the newspaper, then came Black Friday, FatWallet, SlickDeals, even daily deals on twitter. (Did I mention to follow @overclockerscom?) Hell, someone got trampled to death at a Walmart last Black Friday, so is it worth sacrificing human life for a good deal?
Now do not misunderstand, I am by no means a human rights activist despite my love for U2, not to mention Jack Bauer is my hero. However once in a while a truly disturbing situation catches my attention. It is my duty to report such glaring human rights violations — well, only when it is related to overclocking (and it doesn’t threaten national security – I still love you Jack Bauer).
The New York Times reports that on Tuesday, a 19-year old employee at Foxconn apparently jumped to his death at a factory operated by Foxconn, a manufacturer of motherboards, power supplies, and electronics. This is the ninth suicide this year at this complex of China factories in Shenzhen, where 420,000 people are employed. This story has gained international attention over the past week as China’s media outlets have been publishing “sensational accounts” of abuse and mis-treament of workers (according to Foxconn executive Terry Ghou).
Nine suicides in the course of five months may not be cause for alarm, “the suicide rate at Foxconn is still below estimates of the national rate of about 14 per 100,000 people in China” [NY Times] (as compared to 11 per 100,000 in the USA). Makes me wonder what goes on in China? Casting aside that disturbing statistic, clearly something is awry at Foxconn. Different labor rights organizations have demonstrated outside the Foxconn factory as well as accused the conglomerate of abusing and under-paying its workers.
An investigation is underway, but this awful situation begs the question, is greed the universal motivator? Mr. Ghou is one of the richest men in China, but does this come at the expense of his workforce of over 420,000?
Consumers are more aware than ever about where their purchases come from, whether they are organic, free-trade or the like. The only conclusion that can be drawn is caveat emptor. It is unlikely free-trade electronics are the next wave of the future, but it is certainly worth mulling this over (it’s better than working, right?).