When a worker at China’s Foxconn tech sweatshop fell to his death last Friday it was only the latest tragedy at the megasized iPhone production plant. There have been at least 10 suicides this year, and the fact that protective nets now flank the facility’s dormitories doesn’t exactly inspire cheer. At this point, Foxconn may be better known by its nickname: “The Suicide Factory.”
In light of the multiple deaths and the resulting press coverage, including a sprawling Bloomberg Businessweek cover last September, an Ad Age story reports that Foxconn founder Terry Gou has hired the Burson-Marsteller public relations firm to help brighten its reputation. The agency, which is run by the longtime political pusher Mark Penn, will also help oversee Gou’s attempt to expand Foxconn operations into the U.S.
Companies such as Apple, Sony, Microsoft, and Dell all rely on Foxconn to manufacture their products, but the recent string of suicides hasn’t exactly been great for Gou’s reputation. The Bloomberg Businessweek piece said the deaths have prevented Gou from being “Henry Ford reincarnated,” and noted that the founder did not take action until the fifth worker took his or her life.
Penn, who’s kept a relatively low profile since his failed stint as the chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, caught flack last week when he said that because President Clinton’s response to the Oklahoma City bombings reconnected him to the American people, President Obama needs a disaster of his own to occur in order to help his approval ratings.