Also worth noting: Apple seems inclined to take the lead on investigating just what goes on at Foxconn. To date, no other companies have publicly indicated any plans to follow Apple's footsteps in launching independent inspections of the facility.
Inside the factory
Your iPhone and iPad are hand-made. More than 300 workers' hands touch the iPad before it's finished. Foxconn's employees can assemble 300,000 iPad cameras in a day. They hear repeated instructions all day long--recorded voices from the automated machines that run the assembly lines.
The factory workers are young. They're not kids, but they're around college age: Weir says many are between 17 and 19, and that he didn't see anyone who looked much older than 30.
Foxconn workers sit quietly during their 12-hour shifts, repeatedly performing identical assembly line actions. Weir's report showed one worker whose job was to smooth out the space on the rear of the iPad where the Apple logo goes. There are hundreds of steps involved in creating these products--141 steps to make an iPhone--and workers perform each of the actions, by hand, over and over again.
Weir interviewed Aurent Van Heerden, the president of the Fair Labor Association (FLA) of which Apple is now a member, and the group which Apple asked to handle the Foxconn inspections. Van Heerden says that one thing his inspectors will look for is what happens when their team (or Weir's camera crew) moves through the facility. Van Heerden wants to see workers unafraid to look up and notice the strangers in their midst, not fearful of taking a moment to observe the newcomers. And as he explained this to Weir, the camera showed various factory workers seemingly doing just that--looking up, taking note of Van Heerden, Weir, and the camera crew as they walk around.
The report shows the massive cafeteria where workers get their meals; workers actually get an hour per meal. If they eat quickly, Weir reports, workers can catch naps before their shifts start again, back at their stations on the assembly line. Plenty do.
Weir asked workers what they think about as they repeatedly perform their work on the line. One woman--a mother of two--answers that she thinks about how tired she is. It's hard work.
Foxconn employees aren't required to live in the factory dorms, but many do. Weir shows that the dorms are crowded: Between six and eight workers share a dorm with bunk beds. The rooms Weir shows are larger than the rooms I shared in college, but they're far from luxurious. But, at least in the glimpses we get, they're far from awful, too.