Workers’ plight at Foxconn sweatshops is real despite fabricated facts, monologuist says

The  controversial topic surrounding inhumane working conditions at Foxconn plants (often likened to sweatshops) has entered a new phase as monologuist Mike Daisey backtracks on his unpleasant claims, now admitting they were partly fabricated from sensationalist news reports.

As you might recall, the whole thing gained traction as the New York Times published a lengthy piece on the conditions of Apple’s supply chain in China. Other mainstream outlets immediately picked up the story as consumer groups began demanding an ethical iPhone. The public backlash also pushed Apple to list its suppliers for the first time. CEO Tim Cook dismissed the allegations as “patently fales”, insisting that “We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain.”

Now, as the popular NPR radio program This American Life retracted their story based on Daisey’s highly acclaimed show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”, the monologuist ran a post on his personal blog this morning basically saying that even though he spiced up his original report, the basic premise on workers’ plight in China sweatshops still holds true…

According to Daisey:

You certainly don’t need to listen to me. Read the New York Times reporting. Listen to the NPR piece that ran just last week in which workers at an iPad plant go on record saying the plant was inspected by Apple just hours before it exploded, and that the inspection lasted all of ten minutes. […] If people want to use me as an excuse to return to denialism about the state of our manufacturing, about the shape of our world, they are doing that to themselves.

Daisey had to change the final production of his one-man Broadway show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” (he got standing ovation) to more accurately reflect the truth. A Foxconn spokesperson didn’t hide his company’s delight with the turn of the events, telling BloombergBusinessweek:

I am happy that the truth prevails, I am glad that Mike Daisey’s lies were exposed. But I don’t think that the reports about this have gone far enough to find out what exactly is the truth. People will have the impression that Foxconn is a bad company, so I hope they will come and find out for themselves.

However, watchers note that Foxconn is not off the hook yet. Per Reuters story from today, investors and labor groups are still watching closely the world’s largest contract manufacturer, keeping a close eye on working practices at its huge plants in China.


The scandal also forced the otherwise credible New York Times to edit Daisey’s op-ed article entitled ‘Against Nostalgia’ which was published after Steve Jobs had died on October 5 of last year.

Sociologist Dr. Boy Lüthje, an expert in labor conditions at China’s contract manufacturers, says companies such as Foxconn should be scrutinized. He observed in today’s exclusive interview with Cult of Mac that though these are modern factories rather than sweatshops, working conditions “absolutely” need to be improved.

Facing criticism, Foxconn recently raised worker wages by as much as 25 percent.