Al Jazeera has just a launched a new program called Activiate which anyone interested in nonviolent action will want to keep their eyes on. The show is described as, “Telling the stories of activists around the world as they challenge authority and stand up for what they believe in,” and the first episode looks at Debby Chan and activists with Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) who are campaigning for better working conditions at Foxconn, one of Apple’s main suppliers based in China.
The documentary follows Chan as she puts herself in harm’s way to collect evidence against Foxconn, and has great footage of protests against the company both in the streets and at its shareholder meeting. Chan also talks with one former employee who is suing Foxconn and travels all the way to Apple headquarters in California to share her findings with company executives.
The film shows an organized and multi-pronged campaign against the company, but it isn’t clear what the activists long-term strategy is or how they intend to build momentum. It was also dissapointing to see how Chan’s visit to Apple’s headquarters played out. Despite traveling such a long distance to meet with company executives, who had repeatedly turned down requests for a meeting, she in essence left her documents with a security guard who said he’d pass them along. It’s hard not to see a lost opportunity in that anti-climatic ending to the film. From a strategic perspective, there were countless tactics she could have used to draw more attention to the cause and put greater pressure on Apple, like arriving with a larger group that would refuse to leave without a meeting and contacting the local and national media to capture the confrontation.
Nevertheless, I applaud Chan and SACOM for their work to highlight and stop the injustices taking place in these horrible factories that produce our latest electronic marvels.