NYU Student Goes Undercover Inside The Secretive Apple Pegatron iPhone Factory

The Pegatron iPhone Factory, one of Apple's manufacturing partners, is surrounded in secrecy, but you've probably read reports of the mind-numbing conditions workers suffer inside the huge factory in China, where Apple's smartphones are built. However the true grimness of what workers have to actually endure on a daily basis really hits home when you see this video report (above) from NYU grad student Dejian Zeng.

As part of his summer project Zeng went undercover at the Pegatron iPhone factory located on the outskirts of Shanghai where tens of thousands of people work. He spent six weeks at this Apple factory working undercover in China and learned first hand the bleakness of the conditions under which Apple's iPhones are manufactured.

His job while he was there was to repeatedly put in a single screw that fastens the speaker to the back of the phone's case. Each day he had to show up for work at 7:30PM and would then spend 12 hours in the factory, but only got paid for 10.5 hours, as breaks are unpaid. While there he continually did this one, mundane task.

Electronic devices aren't allowed to be used in the factories, so no listening to music while you work. After a few days doing this same repetitive task, Zeng tells Businesss Insider that it becomes, unsurprisingly, very dull. "It makes you very boring there because you can't listen to music." he says. "Sometimes workers talk with each other, random chats, but sometimes your line manager gets very upset by that. They say, 'Keep your voice low.'"

Conditions Inside The Pegatron iPhone Factory

Conditions Inside The Pegatron iPhone Factory.

Workers at the Pegatron Corporation are paid Zeng 3,100 yuan (around $450) per month, that includes any overtime, and he only got Sundays off as a break too. They also gave him board, but that involves sleeping in a dorm room with eight other people, with one floor of many of these rooms sharing just one restroom and bathroom. You can understand why these places have been referred to as Apple sweatshops.

As an indication of the size of the Pegatron iPhone factory, it houses seven sub factories, all set on one campus. And all the workers wear a similar uniform, a blue hat, pink shirt, and blue pants. Plus slippers. But they're only issued with one uniform, which they presumably have to keep washing and rewashing.

You would think that one of the perks of working at an iPhone factory is that workers are given a complimentary iPhone. No chance. Instead they have to buy them, which unsurprisingly many of them can't afford.

So instead they buy cheaper Chinese phones.

Zeng says he spent his time working on the iPhone 6S and iPhone 7, and one of the things that shocked him the most was how the managers treated the workers. "Yelling at workers is kind of routine in the factories," he notes and mentions the suicide prevention measures in place. Like nets on the stairs and cages around the windows.

So Why Do People Work At Pegatron Corporation?

Why Do People Work At Pegatron Corporation.

As for whether the workers, who Zeng notes aren't uneducated people, like their work. Well, not really. "So I would say we don't like it and we don't hate it." Zeng explains to Business Insider. "We just consider it a job that can give us money. Nobody enjoys the process, because the purpose of getting to work is waiting to get out. The only thing that we're thinking about is really money, money, money. I need to get some money from my family, I need to support my life, support my kids. That's the only thing in their mind. Sometimes they don't even care how tired they are. Some workers have worked at different factories and think Pegatron has stricter management."

Zeng continues "You can't use your phone in their factory. You can't listen to music. Sometimes there are people walking around that don't allow you talk too loud. So some workers have a comparison and think Pegatron has stricter controls. That's something that gets them annoyed."

Full credit to Zeng for his work here, it's an insightful look into a place that makes a product that many of us carry around in out pockets, making us all complicit.

Check out some photos he took while there, below.

Photos Inside The Pegatron Apple iPhone Factory

NYU Student Goes Undercover In Secretive Pegatron iPhone Factory - 01.

The Pegatron Apple factory campus. Photo: Dejian Zeng

NYU Student Goes Undercover In Secretive Pegatron iPhone Factory - 02.
A dorm at the Pegatron China Apple factory. Photo: Dejian Zeng

NYU Student Goes Undercover In Secretive Pegatron iPhone Factory - 03.
Cafes outside the Pegatron Apple China factory campus. Photo: Dejian Zeng

NYU Student Goes Undercover In Secretive Pegatron iPhone Factory - 05.
Apple workers in china learning about safety at the Pegatron facility. Photo: Dejian Zeng

NYU Student Goes Undercover In Secretive Pegatron iPhone Factory - 06.
Workers in their uniforms. Photo: Dejian Zeng