I spent two summers in college working at the amusement park. I had a lot of fun and met a lot of great people. Some articles about Apple have brought Foxconn back into the news recently. One thing that struck me as surprising was how similar it sounded to my amusement park job.
A production line in Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China. The iPhone is assembled in this vast facility, which has 230,000 employees, many at the plant up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.
The park where I worked may not have had 230,000 employees, but a 12 hour shift, six days a week was NOT an unheard of thing. In fact it was pretty common. An open to close shift could be more than 13 hours. Some of the less popular departments, the people who picked up trash for example, were often understaffed and their employees would have to work all day every day. Days off? We got 1 a week.
What about housing? Picture this, a 15×10 room that was filled with 2 bunk beds, 3 lockers, a dresser, and a single desk built into the wall. There are spotty wifi hotspots in a few places throughout the dorms, but the cinderblock walls prevent the signal from making it very far. You have community bathrooms that are almost never cleaned and you’re pretty sure that you can see mold growing on the ceiling above the showers. The entire complex is surrounded by a barbed wire topped fence and your bags are searched whenever you enter the complex at night. At the end of every week, a bit of money is then deducted from your paycheck for the privilege of living there. Can you guess where that is? (hint: it’s not China) That was where I lived for 2 summers as an amusement park employee. I’m not saying that the free Foxconn dorms are nicer, but from the pictures I’ve seen they sure look like they are.
This is all superficial you say? The real evil is in the work they do? Foxconn has people doing sweatshop labor, you got to work on roller coasters! The novelty of working in amusement park wears off quickly and it becomes like most other jobs, only louder. I was lucky enough to have a good job at the park (I worked on one of these) but I had a roommate who cleaned toilets. One day, I was lucky enough to work as a “sweep.” That meant I walked around all day with a broom and a dustpan sweeping up litter. More than one person asked me if I was okay because the look on my face made them think something was wrong with me. That was after ONE day of working that job. Next time you’re at an amusement park, look for those people sweeping the sidewalks. They all look just like this Foxconn employee.
But what about fair wages? Foxconn employees only make 17 dollars a day. I made $7.35 an hour. This is a pretty huge difference, but I don’t think it’s really that big when you take into account the difference in cost of living between the United States and China. (I’m not saying they’re even close, just that they’re not as far apart as the numbers say)
The United States has labor laws that prevent wages like in China though right? Sure they do, but guess who is exempt from some of them? Amusement parks! They don’t have to pay minimum wage or pay overtime. Just like amusement park employees, Foxconn employees can also be seasonal.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that Foxconn is some great place to work, or the amusement park where I worked was that terrible (I did go back after all). I just wanted to give people a little bit different perspective and show them that things might not be as bad as they seem.