UPDATE: This American Life has retracted "MR. DAISEY AND THE APPLE FACTORY" because the segment "contained significant fabrications," writes show host Ira Glass.
When Apple fanboy Mike Daisey saw photos from someone's iPhone that were ostensibly from inside Foxconn and not wiped before shipment, he became deeply curious about the goings on in the factory that makes a lot of our high-tech crap. So he went to Shenzhen, stood outside the plant, and talked to the workers. His story of their stories stirred up quite a bit of controversy last year and ultimately made for a wonderful and moving spoken word performance at New York's Public Theater. (Nightly shows of "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs begin again on January 31.) And if you're not in NYC, Mike's performance was excerpted on This American Life earlier this month. From an email Mike sent over the weekend:
In its first week the episode was the most downloaded in THIS AMERICAN LIFE's history. The internet exploded, and the story went everywhere—I received over a thousand emails in just a few days; the response was overwhelming.
That same week news broke that hundreds of Foxconn workers had a stand-off that lasted two days, where they were all threatening mass suicide by throwing themselves off the roof of the plant over their working conditions.
This is at Foxconn, a company which Apple's own 2011 Supplier Responsibility Report said was completely up to code, and which Apple applauded for their efforts. This is the company about which Steve Jobs said the employees enjoyed a virtual paradise of movie theaters, swimming pools, and luxury.
A week after our show was broadcast, Apple made an abrupt announcement. After years of stonewalling and silence, they released the full list of their suppliers, and agreed to outside, independent monitoring of working conditions in the factories they use. It is not everything, but it is a small step down the right road.