Rob Schmitz is a reporter and Marketplace Correspondent based in Shanghai, China. He has spent time in many factories – as well as a bit of time outside of the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, the same factory fabulist Mike Daisey interviewed workers he purported were 12 and 13 years old. Schmitz’s findings definitely didn’t jibe with Daisey’s and I decided to sit down for a few minutes to go over his experiences reporting on Chinese manufacturing practices and problems.
“I think the truth is pretty complicated,” he said. “Foxconn has a little over one million employees in China.” Schmitz spent time talking to employees with Daisey’s translator, Cathy, and found a whole range of problems, from low wages to, oddly enough, complaints about the food. He didn’t see much of what Daisey described, but there’s a reason: Foxconn is one of the tightest-run manufacturers in China and Taiwan. There are problems, he said, but many of these problems are being addressed and when issues arise, workers are actually beginning to strike.
The truth, as Schmitz said, is complicated, and Daisey’s fabrications sadly cloud the real and pressing safety issues found in many of China’s lesser suppliers. To go after Foxconn and Apple is an easy ploy to gain eyeballs and attention, but the real concerns happen away from the bright media glare.