China syndrome redux: Why it really is about Apple

China syndrome redux: Why it really is about Apple

Rene recently wrote an editorial about the current controversy surrounding Apple and the working conditions in the Chinese factories where Apple -- and almost every other consumer electronics company -- has their products made. It was a nice editorial, but I disagree with it completely. Well, almost completely. I do agree that it's an important issue and that the discussion is good. He took a position and argued it well, that China was the story, and Apple merely link-bait. And it's that position I disagree with.

First of all, just because almost every other consumer electronics company uses the same factories in no way lets Apple off the hook. If anything, it just means those hooks are awfully crowded.

Each and every one of those companies, including Apple, are accountable for their own actions, or lack of action, concerning the working conditions in the factories where their products are made.

If Apple were to pull out of these factories, it's true that a lot of other companies would remain, but so what? Apple will have done something, and even more pressure could be exerted on the ones that remained, and they'd look even worse because they remained.

Change often comes from a single, courageous act that disrupts the status quo and sets into motion a new course of action that others simply must follow.

If staying engaged proves to be a better strategy, however, Apple could still be a greater agent for change. They could see to it workers were paid more, for example, or insist upon more reasonable working schedules.

Of course, Apple can't just give the factories more money. It would likely disappear long before it reached the workers, as money often seems to. But Apple could make worker wages a condition of their contracts. It would take time, and require enormous oversight to make sure the factories followed through, but it would be worth it.

Apple makes incredible profits. That's their job as a company. Using those profits to elevate the wages of Chinese workers isn't a net loss, however. It's an investment. Just like Henry Ford insisted on paying his workers enough so that, one day, they could become his customers, Apple would one day benefit from the more rapid establishment of greater customer base in China.

Yes, we in the Western world went through our own industrial revolution, and the working conditions were deplorable, but now we have labor laws and minimum wage, access to health insurance or health care. Unemployment and homelessness remain a huge problem, of course, and there's suffering and abuse of the system to be sure. But in general we as a society face a far, far higher standard of living than that facing Chinese factory workers.

And it's not okay to exploit that difference.

When the media reports on Apple's role in the Chinese factory system, when organizations plan protests, rather than say it's link-bait or opportunism, I see it as a call to action.

Apple is one of the wealthiest and most influential companies in the world. With that money and power comes responsibility. While having razor-thin profit margins certainly doesn't excuse the Dells or HPs, having hefty profit margins absolutely puts the burden on Apple to lead the way. They can afford to pay more. Customers like me might even be proud to know that Apple is paying more.

I buy fair trade coffee. I'd certainly buy an iPad proudly produced by fair labor.

Things won't change over night. They never do. The people who run the factories in China won't wake up tomorrow and suddenly start paying their workers better, or start making their working conditions more palatable.

But demanding change will make it come faster.

The more the media reports on working conditions in China, the more people are informed about it, the more the outcry that follows, the more companies like Apple fear the bad press and public perception, the more their brand or reputation suffers, the more they're motivated to take action, to speed up the change.

Apple gets the spotlight because of their size and their impact. They dent the universe. Instead of just denting it with better phones or newer tablets, why don't they really wind up and dent it by making lives better?

Tim Cook purportedly said, in response to these stories, that Apple "cares about about every worker in their worldwide supply chain."

Great. It's time for them to prove it.

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Georgia

Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, co-host of Vector, Review, and Isometric podcasts, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Dow.

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China syndrome redux: Why it really is about Apple

51 Comments

The thing is no one will stand behind this with their own hard erned dollar. No one will follow Apple to make a (dolphin safe) Computer. And you know you won't spend the difference which would be ALOT of $$$ on the same gear made elsewhere. End rant

About the new Macbook Pro just released: NOT IMPRESSED, sseiourly. Where is the radeon on 13 ? Where is the new design, the future of macbooks as showed before? AND at last and most important: WERE THE $%ˆ$ IS THE USB 3.0?

What I don't get about this whole China thing is why people are so worked up about working conditions in China, and don't seem to care one little bit about working conditions right here in the US. Do some research on migrant workers in Florida and California and you will quickly see the Foxconn workers have it good. And while migrant workers are at the bottom of the feeding chain, quite literally, workers in retail (yes places where they sell all those electronic cheap goods) like Wal Mart are just one step up from slavery. It goes on.
The fact is, like on so many issues, US people love to complain about things happening half way around the world, because all they can do is jawbone and sign Internet petitions. But when it comes to taking actions on issues closer to home where they have to make a real effort to cause change, all of a sudden they avert their eyes. It's ethics on the cheap and lazy, the way of life in this country.

I think it is pretty ridiculous to state that just because there are other issues in the world that we shouldn't deal with this one, seems very convinient. We should all be much more aware of the manner in which we effect our environments.
So because there are homeless lets forget about violence against women. You set up a blog highlighting how we can help dealing with migrant workers and Ill listen. Just don't be afraid to take a stand either way.

Georgia, really, I need to set up a blog to educate you on slavery in the US and what to do about it? Use Google or Bing and you will learn a lot about what the issue is and what you can do about it. The fact that you don't want to bother illustrates my point: people complaining about Foxconn now, are intellectually and morally lazy. I don't find this moral outrage the least bit admirable.
As for Rob's point about Walmart not putting armed guards to keep workers in line: well maybe you Rob who make a decent living as a graphic designer and can afford to buy all these fancy gadgets don't understand the fact that threatening to fire someone or withhold their paycheck if they join the union is probably a more effective threat than an armed guard. And please, the Foxconns workers do have better lives than migrant workers. Read about the "dormitories" the latter live in - 15 people in a run down trailer which they are locked into. Rob do you also vet where the food on your table comes from? I certainly hope so.

Links or factual evidence on all of these 'worker attrocities' at Wal Mart. Nobody is forced to take a job there. No I don't shop there because everything you buy is 'Made in China' unlike when Sam Walton was alive & he proudly featured American made goods.
As for my food I buy from local sources probably 70% of what my family consumes. As a result we keep money in. our local economy & are pretty healthy overall. Very little bulk packaged foods are bought in my home. We prefer to cook our meals. That's our preference however so suit yourself.
Now that I think about it you are right however. The immigrants have it sooooo hard in the US. That's why they continue to come here in every increasing numbers from Mexico & Central America. Here in NC migrant workers have it pretty damn good. Their employers for the most part provide their housing. Free schooling for their kids. Free health care & mucho public assistance. Yep, they got a rough life. And nobody is walking around with automatic weapons forcing them to do it.

RT user AT. I would recommend everyone go listen to the Today In iOS podcast about this issue. The host brings up some valuable statistics about working conditions in America as compared to Foxconn: for example, they have less suicides per capita than corporate America, and the quality of life is considerably better for the average Foxconn worker than the average Chinese worker. Most of the issues at the factory is 'china' related and not necessarily Foxconn related. It's a touchy topic and there are a lot of facts being glazed over. There is also a lot of human rights being glazed over as well. And not just in china.

Where could Apple go for assembly of their wares and maintain current price points, and be competitive in the marketplace?

The fact of the matter remains that Foxconn workers make more than a rural farmer, and culturally speaking, being able to send money home to the family is very important.
Sacrificing one self for the greater good of the next generation is a concept that not everyone can appreciate, and respecting your parents is ingrained into most Chinese people. Given these two cultural realities, many will flock to the "city" to look for work. I am quite certain that there are many factory workers who are happy to be workin there, instead of enduring he hard labour of farming the land.
It's also unfortunately a useful tactic for apple to suck up as much manufacturing resources as they can in order that other competitor cannot get their products out. It's no secret that 2048x1536 res panels exist. But why aren't there rumoura that android will be coming out with these panels? Because Apple, if they are goin to release a high res iPad, will have bought the whole manufacturing chain to satisfy their base. And that's how they are staying ahead of the tech curve to bring you products that no one else can match.
I say a Foxconn peon beats a lot of other jobs today.

You know what the average Foxconn worker is probably thinking (especially if they already have an offspring)? If I work hard enough, and long enough, and I don't spend frivolously, I will have saved enough money to put my kid through a good school, be able to afford a tutor, and hopefully, s/he will get a decent enough education so that when s/he grows up, s/he won't have to suffer the same fate that I had.
You have to remember that the Chinese cultural revolution wasn't really all that long ago. There are still grandfathers alive today that can tell you about how bad it got. Arguably, it was as atrocious as the Holocost. People were being killed and sent to reformation camp just because you were smart or you owned land. They were made to kneel on glass, and confess their evil capitalistic ways. It was a systematic dumbing down of a whole generation. If you were smart (like you were a teacher), then you were sent to a slave labour farm, turning big rocks into little rocks, or something just as trivial.
Because people still tell stories about "farming" as it were, the mindset of any job is better than a farm job still rings true, especially in rural parts of China.
Do you know why Asian women prefer to be pale and fair skinned? Because a girl with a tan meant you were poor. It meant that you had to work outside. Rich people don't get tans. You can laugh all you want about that (I certainly do - I'm Chinese), but it's absolutely a true stigma.
And Chinese people, maybe more than any other culture/creed/race, aren't afraid of hard work. I'm not trying stereotype (I'm lazy as anything), but again, culturally, this is true. So your Foxconn peon will stand there 12 hours a day placing the same screw to the same backplate for little money a day, because s/he dreams that hard work alone will get them rewards moving forward.
You want change? Stop buying electronic devices. Stop buying smartphones, computers, etc, etc. - and there will be a change. You will shut down these factories, and they will go back to farming, or something just as backbreaking.
One last story. I recently did Habitat for Humanity for a family of 2 in Thailand. I went to the bank to withdraw 6000 baht, because I needed some spending money. The next day I found out the husband of the house we're building for made 6000 baht in 1 year harvesting rubber out of rubber trees at night! I was carrying his annual income in my pocket and spent it in 2 days.
He worked at night, then came home and help us build his house from 8am-4pm most days. Worked as hard as anyone else - mixing and pouring concrete by hand. Not the best job in the world to be sure.
Life's tough, we have it easy. Period.

Very well said. If people truly care about theses workers, there is a simple solution. Buy more Made In China product! Mandating wages requirement will make company reduce cost by cutting head counts or move operation to another country. By buying more Made in China product creates more jobs in China. When there are more jobs, there will be more competition for higher wages and better working condition. Thus creating better quality of life overall. You can't improve the life of people in China by only bringing up the wage of factories workers. If you only care about the wages of factory workers, then you are just selectively applying your moral values when it is convenient.. You want proof that this works? Look at Taiwan. We worked our way out of poverty with no foreign country trying to play doctor and fix our wage problem when they have no idea what the problem is.

"But Apple could make worker wages a condition of their contracts. It would take time, and require enormous oversight to make sure the factories followed through, but it would be worth it."
I agree with this statement, to a point.
What I mean to say is, you need to look at the economy in China. What to people pay for rent, expenses, insurance (if they have it), food, etc. I think what you'd find is that in general, things are a LOT cheaper there in comparison to the USA, Canada, and other "Western" countries. I'm not saying they are cheaper from the perspective of a Chinese citizen. They wouldn't really know the difference without coming to the US and seeing how their currency converts to US currency rates. But if I, or you, were to suddenly up and move to China, taking our US, or in Georgia's case Canadian, currency and exchanging it for Chinese currency, we could live there like kings with as much money that we'd get in exchange.
One is example I can comment on personally is from a friend I have who was born and raised in the Ukraine and now lives in the US. When they lived in the Ukraine, they earned a standard wage for the job they were doing, and by comparison, lived the normal life as a citizen of the Ukraine. However now that they live and work in the US, they actually send money back to the Ukraine, I think about $200-$250 US Dollars a month, and that amount is about 50% more than a common attorney in the Ukraine would make in a single month. For us, living on $200 a month is impossible. Heck, my health insurance is $414 a month alone. But for them, they could live a very, VERY nice lifestyle there.
The same goes for China. Yes, Apple and other countries could to more to help increase wages a bit, but I think the larger issue is workers rights. Making sure people earn a fair wage for the hours they work, and paid proper overtime, are given enough time off, etc. I think we want to ensure that workers there aren't driven like slaves for 12+ hour days and not fairly compensated. Another friend of mine works on cruise ships about 6 months out of the year. For her work, she earns about $4,000 per month USD equivalent. She works 12 hour days, with nary a day off unless the ship is docked in port and she gets some additional free time, but then when her tour is over with, she's got a nice wad of cash when she goes to shore.
The point I'm trying to make is that it is possible that for a Chinese citizen, working for Foxconn might be the bee's knees! By comparison to other Chinese workers, their wages may be much better than working at other jobs. I've not seen a single comparison of the average wage of a Chinese citizen compared to the wages paid to Foxconn workers. I'd be very interested to see this data to make a final judgement on this issue.
On the other end of the spectrum, I will say that yes, Apple and many other companies likely do take advantage of the lower price point of Chinese labor, but also of the skill of the workers to quickly develop new manufacturing methods and techniques in a short period of time. I believe Steve Jobs told President Obama in a meeting sometime in 2010 or 2011 that bringing those jobs to the US would be impossible due to the lack of qualified engineers. So in that case, the issue is two-fold. One, finding qualified workers in the US is not possible, and second, the overall costs in China are less and more feasible, and that also results in more profits.
I believe we can ALL agree that this is a very complex issue, and not one that is either easily or quickly solved. I to have high hopes that Apple can stick to its guns and continue their efforts to ensure their manufacturing partners are doing all they can for their workers. I do believe that Apple should do a bit more to ensure workers rights are protected and expanded upon. But I also believe that Apple is already doing more than probably any other company in this area too, and Apple should be commended for their efforts. Instead, as Rene pointed out, they are being lambasted by the media and others because they are making record profits. It doesn't really matter if it is Apple or not. Look at Exxon Mobile. They are now the second largest company in the world by market cap, and they suck up oil for all corners of the Earth. But I've yet to see a comparison of the wars and atrocities committed by big oil companies (oh wait, The Gulf and Iraq wars for one) and how that differs or is similar to the Apple issue. If IBM or Google or Samsung or were making the huge profits that Apple currently is, they'd be just as under fire as Apple is now.
I hope I've not rambled too much and that this makes sense. It's almost 2am here after all.

There is that famous moral equivalancy argument I was referring to below. Using a bad example to make your case is not only excusing the situation it is relegating your long post to near irrelevance.
A few quick points...
Exxon/Mobil , like Apple is a legal enterprise in business to make money. They just happen to do it better than anyone else in their field. Yet I don't remember Exxon/Mobil being harranged for human rights abusues. Feel free to point out where I'm wrong.
Your small quip about wars in Iraq & Afghnaistan are quite simply dumbfounding & paint you into the all too familiar corner of the 'liberal know it all but really knows nothing' type of person. Those wars, that whole heartedly didn't agree with, were NOT about oil. You make the true reasons to be anti-war sound ill informed & ignorant by putting out Michael Moore talking points.
Apple is getting this attention due a long history, at least in the modern context of Steve Jobs returning in the late 90's, of crowing big on their success & the failings of others who they compete with in the market. When you are the top dog & making the lions share of the profit you have the largest responsibility & the public attention to force change in areas that you can control. Most economic papers on this subject have put the lie to Apple's claim about needing more engineers to make their products. Now we are supposed to believe that every worker in those Chinese factories (or slave labor camps by most standards) are engineers with advanced educations? If that is what it takes to manufacture Apple's goods than thank you I want nothing to do with it. I'll keep spending more money on sometimes inferior products made in the US (when I can find them) or other countries that don't support this type of exploitation.

Rob,
Wow. You've grossly misinterpreted me in some way or another. But I wish to congratulate you. You are THE FIRST person in my ENTIRE life to call me "liberal know it all but really knows nothing". Hell, I've never even been called a Liberal before. Unfortunately, I'm a moderate Republican, or at least consider myself so.
Secondly, I HATE Michael Moore, and I don't like when idiots like you put me in the same boat as him.
First of all, up to a point, I personally don't care what goes on a Foxconn. If 15 year old kids are making my phones, then so be it. Who cares? If they're getting paid, it's not like Foxconn went out with their mafia squad to wrangle up slaves to put to work. These people working at Foxconn have a CHOICE. If they don't want or like the work, they are completely free to leave.
Look, I had my first official paying job when I was 14, bagging groceries at a supermarket. And yes, I hated the conditions. People treated me like crap. And I felt like a slave when I was at work. Before age 14, I worked in the summers on my Aunt and Uncle's farm, bailing hay, feeding the horses, sheep and cattle, and also helping them with their concession carts that they'd take to fairs selling hot dogs, burgers and frozen snickers bars. Have you ever worked a day in your life in a food cart when it's 95 degrees outside and you're standing over a grill, sweating like Michael Jackson at an elementary school playground during recess? If you've never done that, then I implore you, PLEASE give it a try. You know how much I made doing that? They'd give me $20 dollars a day, for about 14 hours worth of work. Maybe $40 if the profits were incredibly high that day. And you know what? I was HAPPY to get it!! Was I a slave?? Maybe some would say it, but you know what, when I think back on my youth, I have fond memories of those days.
Regardless, you completely missed my original point. Apple is not Foxconn. Foxconn is not Apple. Apple contract Foxconn to assemble their iPhones, iPads and probably other electronics as well. Apple also has a track record of investigating alleged human rights issues. Back in 2010 when all of the Foxconn suicides were doing on, do you think Apple caused that? Look Rob, Apple hired Foxconn to do a job that Foxconn said they could handle. It was Foxconn that pushed their employees to kill themselves, NOT Steve Jobs. Foxconn could have hired more people to keep up with product demand, but instead they pushed existing employees beyond the breaking point. Do I think Foxconn was right for what they did??? HELL no! Steve Jobs even noted to All Things D that they were investigating those problems, with a promise to help improve conditions in their partner factories. And as a concerned citizen, investor, and iPhone enthusiast in general, I am personally happy with the current state of Apple's progress on that front. Now tell me Rob, would a bleeding heart Liberal say that they're happy about that? I think not.
As far as Exxon Mobile, they were sued just last year for human rights violations. Google it! And other oil companies are worse. Just look at the problems join on in Nigeria, Sudan, Columbia, Venezuela, and other places right now. FAR more people die over oil than over iPhones.
Next time you want to call someone uninformed, you'd better look in the mirror first. You end up looking like a putz.

Now that is a personal attack Rene. From my vantage point we had a fundamental disagreement but came to state each others view openly. That is the point of a discussion.
Brad, you made a nice long reply, telling done of your life story while not addressing my thoughts at all. But so be it. The truth will eventually come around once Apple is no longer the darling of Wall Street.
Oh & I Googled about Exxon/Mobile before I posted. So a bunch of special interests are suing for alleged human rights abuses. Any convictions our hard evidence? Just speculation you say? Isn't that what we are doing with regard to Apple & Foxconn?
By the way... Do you use oil? Take a good look around before you answer. If it is such a killer (speculative) then lets all rethink our daily lives quite a bit.
And yes you put yourself in the same league as a Michael Moore when you put forth a nice theory on war.

Georgia I couldn't agree more. Sadly, as can be seen in some of these comments, the I want it now at the lowest price crowd emerges with their moral equivalency arguments. They say things like; "Yeah it's bad at Foxconn but so is Wal Mart blah blah blah..."
You know I can't remember the last time I was at Wal Mart & saw guards (read: military regulars) with machine guns keeping the workers in line tooling away. But that's just my recollection. I could be wrong.
I quit buying anything I possibly can from China. Sadly most of the tech we use comes from there. But if you look hard enough you can find suitable replacements or similar items from Taiwan or Korea. Yes you pay more for it. And it deprives you of the latest Apple goodies. But it works just as well & I rest easy knowing I'm doing my small part to put an end to this exploitation.

Glad you asked Rene.
I happen to use an ASUS laptop made in Taiwan & an LG phone made in Korea. I did the research before I bought. I'm not advocating anybody buy those brands either. Do what you like with your money. If I had an American made alternative to either one it would not be a question of what I would buy. Price be damned. But I do happen to have any number of Chinese alternatives that compete for my dollar. Some cost more, others less. In the case of my phone & laptop both were less & have performed quite well. Should I also mention that I have 3 flatscreen TVs in my home that all bear the Samsung name & are made in Korea? Most of my clothes are by names like Levis, Columbia, New Balance, American Eagle et al... None of them come from Chinese sweatshops. Coasta Rica, Vietnam, Brazil & in the case of my shoes & blue jeans, good ole USA. Yep you can find some still made in America. I actually use websites to seek this info out. Like I said above if not made in the USA I do the research for anything other than Cina.
I also happen to be a graphic designer by profession & my blatant non support of Apple puts me squarely in the minority of my chosen industry & peers. So be it. They choose their product I choose mine as my employer doesn't provide the tech we use for the job.
And yes I've put my money where my mouth is many times doing ad campaigns for any number of cause celebras that I may or may not agree with in the name of getting a paycheck. I make no excuses for that as I'm human just like the next guy/gal. But you also won't find me attempting to shield that company or agency from blame when it needs to be pointed out. Paycheck or not.
That sir is the difference. And no that isn't a personal attack.

Thanks Rob. Hugely appreciated. I think anyone concerned with where their products come from would be well served to do similar research and make similar purchases. I admire that greatly.
(And yeah, that was a personal shot at the end, and you didn't need to add it, but the rest is so good Ima let ya finish and ignore it)

Yet another blogger criticizing thing that they don't understand. Exactly how many of these holier than thou critics actually been to a Foxconn factory? You know the working condition is bad first hand? You want to know their accident rate compare to US's factory's accident rate? Exactly how do you know their wage is too low? Because its low compare to US wage? What is a fair wage for them? Are you kidding me? Do you have any idea what's the average living expenses in China is? Do you have any economic sense of imposing salary on a certain job class in foreign country would do to both theirs economy and US economy? I'm tired of these arm chair doctor wants to fix thing for something they don't understand.
I can tell you after having lived in Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, and US. Grew up with family worked in factories and actually visited a Foxconn factory, Majority of the critics have no idea what they are talking about and never try to fully understand.

Take a look at the interview with a undercover Foxconn worker. They speak of the working conditions pay and treatment in q good amount of detail. People don't threaten mass suicides because they don't like the cafeteria food.

1 show us a company which doesn't have disgruntled employees. It's easy for media to find employees that have nothing nice to say, because that's a story. Employees praising a company is not a story. 
2 and you know these employees committed suicide all because of working condition and not because of family, girlfriend situation?  Every suicide is a tragedy and it should be handled sensitively, but jumping to blame the company is a knee jerk reaction. 
3 where you get the idea that this is a mass suicide?  Heavens Gate cult that's call mass suicide. Again people are taking an absolute number based on what they understand as a normal size of a company. Do you know how many employee Foxconn have?  Do you know what's the suicide rate is in each country compare to the suice rate in Foxconn?  Again every death is a tragedy, but workers are not chain to the table or forbidden from leaving. Taking their own life is not an outcome of them having no choice. Please read the following article to get a better opposing perspective. 
http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2012/01/29/the-apple-boycott-peo...

Sure, people are free to criticize anything they want. That's the freedom of speech. However, let's put some facts on the table. Sure, they work long hours and so do I. I work 12 hours a day frequently. I get compensated for that. Do you know they are not compensated for that? Just because the dollar amount is low compare to your income, it doesn't mean it's not a good pay. The wage of a factory job must be set by the relative pay of other job function in the country. It cannot be dictate by a foreign country. There are negative effects of that. Please read the following article to better understand a different perspective.
http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/smokey.html
Clearly having people paying attention of workers welfare is a good thing. I have family that had worked in a factory. The job was not easy and not pretty, but they understood the opportunities and they made their sacrifices so my generation can better ourselves. Nobody wants to be poor, but it does take hardship to make it in life. What I'm annoyed is that general western view point is that yeah, let's force them raise the workers wage without understanding the negative impact it has on the workers and the country that's burgeoning.

Beautifully written Georgia.
It's not OK for Apple to do nothing about these concerns because they are simply doing what everyone else is doing.
Apple was built on, and continues to be about, doing things better than everyone else, and pushing the boundaries. Steve's obsessive passion for improvement shouldn't just be restricted to making world class products - it should extend to Apple's wider corporate practices as well.
In the 80's and 90's in most of the west the green agenda was a fringe activity. Now in the second decade of the 21st century the importance of sustainability is an accepted consideration, perhaps even the norm. More and more this extends to Governments and to business.
Change is incremental though - like Georgia said, it doesn't take place overnight. If it were not for the efforts of pioneering campaigners and companies who challenge the accepted norm and push back against the tide.
It may take time, but one day accepting higher labour costs in the developing world (rather than just throwing another bag of money on the surplus cash pile) will be seen for what it indeed is - an investment in the future.
Apple is after all about making the future happen, and has already changed so many aspects of peoples day to day lives.
Here's just another opportunity to do this.

I really...really hate to say it, but I completely agree with Rene and disagree with you. This is linkbait journalist b.s. and that is it. In case you haven't taken the time to do any research on the topic, Apple HAS, and CONTINUES TO do more than most any other company in China to improve the pay, conditions, and work environment for these workers. Why do you think people in that area line up for these jobs?

What would happen to the poor impoverished people if Apple and others pull out of China? They would go back to scrounging for work to feed their families. Don't get me wrong, obviously it's great for Apple to be able to save money in manufacturing but make no mistake about it: This is a win-win! Thanks to the business Apple and others generate for FOXCONN, a million people have a secure, well paying job where they would otherwise not. Again, this is a win-win!

Apple to Foxconn.... raise your wages or else.... what?
Sure, Apple has some leverage, but not in comparison to China as a whole.

Well here I am no alias asking you for a little intellectual honesty Rene.
You like Apple & their products/services. So be it. Spend your money as you wish as you are free to do so. And yet instead of asking that one of the richest companies in the world be a bit more rssponsible with how their products are produced (see my comments below on why I believe they have an obligation to do this), you make the excuse that others are doing it too. That is that moral equivanlancy argument I have referred to all too often.
You sir are a Canadian. You have in your country a company that produces very capable communication products there that are not manufactured under these conditions. You choose not to support RIM (that's fine I don't either). The phone & computer I use daily is made in Taiwan. Yes I checked where it came from before I bought it. I make the effort to see that I do as little business as possible with companies whose goods are produced in China. Maybe I'm wrong but I expect more from companies I support with my hard earned money.
At least be willing to call Apple out & dare them to take the lead & change this practice. Would it be so bad if iPhones/iPads/Macs were produced in another country & cost a little more than what people believe is a fair price? The smartphone I have & laptop computer are just as capable, more so in fact, than the Apple offerings. And they cost considerably less.
As I say buy what you want. But don't put on blinders and point at someone for their anonymity that they choose to have & believe you occupy the moral high ground. I equally can't claim all my buying decisions are in the best interest of those that produce the goods I use or things I consume. But I'm not about to make excuses for the record profits or ignorance of those companies that do exploit workers.

Take a look at "Power of the Market - The Pencil" by Milton Friedman on YouTube. The idea that you can buy a product made in some country is pretty much a fallacy. Once you start including the equipment used to make it, etc. it becomes even more a fallacy. You can buy some products which have certain aspects of them made in certain countries.
The reason I point this out is that if you think since your computer was, say, assembled in Taiwan, that it doesn't include aspects of it made in China or a long list of other places with sub-Western working conditions... you need a reality check. That said, certainly, we should keep putting pressure on companies, or better, other countries, governments, and cultures, for change.
My beef with this whole topic (as you can see from my other post), is that for the change to really be effective, it needs to come from within. External pressure might dent it a bit, but won't ultimately change it. The word 'human rights' needs to take on some actual meaning in China in the first place, then real change will start to take place. The good news (for China, anyway) is that they are possibly on a trajectory towards that, whereas most of the West is working to quickly ditch those foundations that we've been enjoying the fruits of. Sadly, I wouldn't be all that surprised if in a few decades, the situation is reversed (if things go as they currently are).

I am getting so tired of reading these articles and I'll tell you why. In North America our society has grown into one of scapegoatism. No one wants to take responsibility just look for a scapegoat to blame. In this case Apple seems to fit the bill nicely. Apple like any other company has one main purpose, to make money. They make that money from the things you and I buy. So when all is said and done it is us who bare the responsibility not Apple. I will say it like it has said many times if people stop buying their products,not only Apple but HP, Dell, and whichever other company has their products made in these factories, then they will sit up and take notice. Therein lies the problem because everyone will respond "What can I do" because you think well if I don't buy it millions of other people will and nothing will change. The authors of every story that has been written have no intention of stop buying the Apple devices they use or the HP laptop they used to write the story. So it is much easier then to place the blame on Apple and go on living your life. I mean if we all were to be honest with ourselves you don't need an iPad, iPhone, MacBook Air,HP laptop to continue liviing. I understand people need them for work and that is understandable but how many families in North America have more than one laptop, desktop computer, smartphone? So if it was out of necessity billion dollar qaurters wouldn't be happening for these companies. In North America our society can't even fix a simple problem in our own nation as litter, it is everywhere and millions of people continue to do it every day. There are garbage cans and recycle bins abound and just the simple act of putting the litter in them seems to be too much of a chore. I bring this up because the conditions in China and many smaller nations are a generational problem much like littering. So if anyone thinks that North America yet alone a single company has the power to change decades old attitudes and conditions then that is a very naive thought. The flipside of this whole arguement is that while it is easy for us in North America to sit in our apartments, houses and condos writing about making change in China it is irresponsible for you not to consider the consequences. Every action creates a large ripple effect and changes things you didn't even consider. The conditions in the factory might be horrible and the money small but it helps these people feed their families or themselves. So while you want these companies to start making things in America or try to affect change in China the result of that may be that lots of these workers will be sent home. Then without any money to feed their families you will wonder if the change really was to help them or to free your conscious of guilt?

Forget these Chinese workers and paying them a higher wage etc. if Apple is going to pull their factories, bring them home to the USA and pay people higher wages here! The US govt. should provide the tax holiday that APPL so desperately wants so it can repatriate its overseas earnings and as a condition of the tax holiday, require that a percentage of its products are produced here in the USA. I think detroit is a good place to start with a brand new APPL factory...
Be a realist and open your eyes to the fact that economic warfare occurs everyday. Just because it isn't splashed on the front pages like Afghanistan doesn't mean it isn't happening.

For the record I am a first time poster and this is the only article that has ever given me any motivation to post.
If these factories and working conditions are so terrible, why do you have third world and BRIC countries competing via tax breaks to have Foxconn set up shop? Economics! Reread the latest article about why Brazil/Foxconn are opening up factories...to get around import duties.
APPL is doing what they can to increase profits like any well run business. It's not their fault that China has an abundant supply and cheaply available ingredient to their products...labor. They are exploiting a source just like all the other big electonics businesses do. My post above my have generalized a bit. APPL uses humans to apply stickers when automated machines would do the same job only with more down time for repairs/maintenance.
Bring those jobs back to the US with automated factories here. My criticism of APPL more has to do with their call for a tax holiday while merely "designing" iPhones here. If they wanted to e a truly green/responsible company they would produce their products here using renewable materials. I will save the green arguement for another day.
Bottom line is call me a racist, I prefer realist but I would prefer to improve the lives of Americans over those of Chinese workers.

I've cleaned the thread.
Anyone and everyone is welcome to post their opinions on the topic of this post. The story here is China and Apple, not any of the writers, editors, or commenters.
Agree or disagree, you're welcome to post and argue anything you like about the topic.
But only the topic.
Leave personal references and attacks out of it.
Consider this is a final, friendly warning.
If you can't discuss without making things personal, you can't discuss.

BRAVO for telling another side to a story. So often you only get the views of one writer. Unfortunately, this like many other issues that have been mentioned in replies, they will not be agreed upon nor resolved. Why? Because those in decision-making positions will be just like we are, not able to reach an agreement as to what is the right thing to do. I wrote a column about a year ago when several suicides happened at FoxConn in a very short period of time. It was heart wrenching to think of people so desperate that they would jump from windows but how often do we hear of someone committing suicide and we are stunned when we find out. We don't know and will never know what happens those last few moments in someone's life. I know life in China is very different than our lives in the US because I have grandchildren who were abandoned on the streets there because of birth defects and put into orphanages. None of us can speak for the people or the company any more than I can speak for what caused the parents of thousands of children now waiting in orphanages there to leave them out in the street merely hours old. We cannot know what another person's life is like until we walk in their shoes.

Reading through the thread I see pretty direct and personal attacks. Maybe personal only applies to anything that goes against one particular persons opinion.

Hi Georgia,
I have to say that I partly agree with you. Your's is a nice counter article to Rene's. What I agree on, is Apple's responsibility as human beings to human beings. Being a corporation, doesn't absolve one from such responsibility, it just makes it more complex because it is way more than one person... and they may not all agree or work together towards such a goal. Also, it is important to see where the power really is. Sure, you and I can stop buying products and exert some pressure. Apple's leadership could implement some changes and exert some pressure. But ultimately, it would be Apple share-holders who would have to be OK (or more likely, exert pressure) with Apple taking whatever losses were necessary to implement such changes. If the numbers start changing negatively, and the share-holders aren't behind it, such an effort won't last long even if all the upper-management at Apple is completely on-board. That said, the board and upper-management could try to sell that vision the way Apple so successfully sells everything else.
The other side of this, though, is a bit more complicated. First, there is the problem that Apple is a drop in the bucket of China. They can exert some pressure up until the point they are told, see-ya. It is kind of like that saying, "you can't legislate morality." This is a stupid statement in itself, as nearly any legislation is a mater of morality. But, what the statement is often trying to say - that by making a law, you can't make people obey - there is a lot of truth. Changing laws sets some standards which may influence society, but if the moral foundation isn't there, it won't ultimately work (cf: prohibition of alcohol in the US).
This, IMO, is the big problem with China. Most movements of change I can think of take an internal change, not some external pressure, especially if that external pressure is minuscule. (Again, I agree this doesn't relieve Apple of doing the right thing... they should do so whether or not they can actually change anything.) When you're in a society in which human life isn't even taken all that seriously, you are a way off from the higher-level kinds of things like Western working hours and benefits.
As the wealth in China grows, there is great potential for some things to change, but I'll still say that change is unlikely to happen in a positive direction without some core internal changes. For example, China already has a HUGE middle class buying Gucci handbags and driving Ferraris. And, if you hit someone with your Ferrari, unless that person's friends and relatives have connections, likely it won't be a big deal. Or, if you need to get something done, and have the cash, you can bribe it done. More money doesn't really solve this kind of problem.
The solution I'd propose is incredibly unpopular at present, and very politically incorrect... but is historically demonstrable and logically consistent. It's the thing that is disappearing in Europe and North America as we begin to crumble. China needs Christian thought to start influencing and penetrating the ruling class and the academy. There are some glimmers of hope in that regard, but it will likely be a long road. (Before you laugh, take a serious look at some of the big ones like abolition of slavery, women's rights, human rights, etc. and dig to the core of how those changes came about or were driven.)

I find comment #24 to be offensive and totally inappropriate. The guidelines for comments has been clearly stated numerous times. If this were my site you would be banned from making any further comments.

Comment 25 by Michael is totally inappropriate content and language. If this were my site you would be banned from any further comments. This is not about a person but an issue that should be taken seriously whether you agree with other comments or not.

I think you're looking at it the wrong way. They produced a documentary bashing corporations and then convinced a corporation to distribute it. That's awesome.

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