Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Business Ethics. Advance Online, 2012. doi: 10.1007/s10551-012-1328-0


Copyright © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. Used by permission.


In 2010, a cluster of suicides at the electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn Technology Group sparked worldwide outcry about working conditions at its factories in China. Within a few short months, 14 young migrant workers jumped to their deaths from buildings on the Foxconn campus, an all-encompassing compound where they had worked, eaten, and slept. Even though the language of workplace dignity was invoked in official responses from Foxconn and its business partner Apple, neither of these parties directly examined workers’ dignity in their ensuing audits. Based on our analysis of media accounts of life at Foxconn, we argue that its total institution structure imposed unique indignities on its workers that both raised questions of their self-respect and selfworth, as well as gave rise to multiple episodes of disrespectful communication. We interpret our findings in light of the larger cultural context and meanings of work in China to understand more fully the experience of dignity of Foxconn’s migrant workforce.