Josh Dzieza wins November Sidney for Exposing The Great Foxconn Con
The Sidney Hillman Foundation announced today that Josh Dzieza of The Verge has won the November Sidney Award for “The 8th Wonder of the World (*wonder not guaranteed)” which explores how the Trump administration and Republican leaders in Wisconsin wasted at least 400 million taxpayer dollars to create the illusion that Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn would build LCD screens in the state.
In 2017, Foxconn promised to invest $10 billion to build a 20-million-square-foot LCD manufacturing complex which would employ 13,000 people. Dzieza’s reporting shows that Foxconn defaulted on almost every promise they made in order to secure massive subsidies. Foxconn came to Wisconsin with no viable business model for making LCDs and instead demanded that its employees come up with alternative revenue streams. Suggestions ranged from tree and fish farming to commercial storage, but all the plans fizzled.
Instead of a state-of-the-art factory, Foxconn built a warehouse 1/20th the size of the promised facility. Wisconsin Republicans cited Foxconn’s lavish promises in their campaign ads and Donald Trump got a public appearance out of the 2018 ground-breaking ceremony, but ordinary Wisconsinites suffered. Some quit good jobs only to discover that they were “ghost workers” whose only duty was to absorb abuse from their superiors while the company hoped their presence on the payroll would boost their “job creation” stats enough to qualify for tax subsidy payments. Others lost their homes through eminent domain in order to clear land that now sits empty. Cash-strapped governments paid to provide infrastructure to support a manufacturing complex that never materialized.
“This story illustrates how businesses and politicians collude to subsidize corporations with zero accountability” said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein. “The politicians got campaign appearances and Foxconn got a friendly line to Donald Trump during a trade war, but ordinary people got shafted.”
Josh Dzieza is an investigations editor and feature writer for The Verge covering technology, business, and science. His coverage of Amazon was named in Longform’s Best of 2019 Tech Writing and a finalist for the 2019 Deadline Club awards. His story about migratory beekeepers received the 2016 Science in Society Journalism Award from the National Association of Science Writers.