In the end, of course, Jobs would bow to shareholder demands and export the robots’ jobs to cheaper human laborers in China. But that is not part of Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, which makes zero mentions of Foxconn, the million-employee contract manufacturer that ultimately enabled the great iResurrection of America’s favorite iBrand.
Foxconn is a subsidiary of Hon Hai Precision, a Taiwanese contract manufacturer founded by a curious man named Terry Guo who does not seem particularly astute at self-branding. He apparently wears an ancient Yuan Dynasty bracelet in honor of his supposed “personal hero,” Genghis Khan, but his management maxims sound suspiciously Confucian. “I always tell employees: The group’s benefit is more important than your personal benefit,” he once said to the Wall Street Journal. It’s better to join the navy than be a pirate, in other words.
Or is it? Guo’s factories employ 90 percent of Apple’s workers in exchange for less than 5 percentof its profits, all so they can consume approximately 99 percent of Apple’s negative press. Guo doesn’t talk to journalists often, but angry employees leaked some comments he made in January at a company annual “family day” at the Taipei Zoo. Taking the stage next to the zoo’s director,he compared Foxconn to his surroundings. “As human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache,” he said.
“What kind of animal jumps off a building?” an indignant Internet commenter wanted to know.
From “The Book of Jobs" by Maureen Tkacik (Reuters, Feb. 22, 2012)