Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that makes more electronic components than any other, is well-known for its large factories in China and their many severe labor rights violations. In an attempt to expand the market reach of brands it produces for, Foxconn has opened some factories in Brazil in the past few years, including one producing Apple products.
But thanks to Brazil’s labor laws, industrial policy and its culture of unionization and collective bargaining, the Brazilian Foxconn workers may actually be able to afford one of the iPhones or iPads they assemble.
The conditions in the Brazilian factories are in stark contrast to Foxconn’s factories in China—wages are twice as high and workers get six times more vacation. Plus, workers are not expected to work 60 to 70 hours a week, or sometimes more than 11 days in a row.
This past week, Luis Carlos de Oliveira, vice president of the Metalworkers Union of Jundiai, in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most industrialized region, visited the AFL-CIO and the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. He and activists for labor rights in China spoke in a forum, “A Closer Look at Apple and Foxconn: Labor Practices in China and Brazil,” about the Brazilian model of development, which includes a national industrial policy to develop strategic industries and boost both the domestic labor and consumer markets. De Oliveira noted that in addition to a 44-hour maximum workweek set by Brazilian law, workers at the Foxconn factory in Brazil have bargained for decent wages, health plans, profit-sharing, food and transport and six months of paid maternity leave.
“The satisfied worker will produce more, and produce better,” de Oliveira said in his remarks at the AFL-CIO.
As part of its industrial policy, the Brazilian government has given significant tax breaks and other financial incentives for Foxconn to assemble devices there, all with an eye toward boosting consumer electronics in the country to end its dependence on imported electronic components. Jobs for Apple in Foxconn factories should be a huge source of employment in the Jundiai region, which is set to employ 6,000 workers and receive billions more in investment. And each of the new hires will be protected by a collectively bargained contract ensuring above-minimum wages and on-the-job safety.
The labor movement in Brazil has elected members of the state and national Congress who are real partners with workers. In Congress and the national government, the labor movement participates in dialogue about how to develop strategic industries in the country with high added value, technological development and the capacity to fight against deindustrialization by building labor markets in manufacturing industries and an internal market so these workers can buy the goods they produce.