The price of cruelty-free Apple products
Did the tech giant figure the ends justified the means?
Foxconn, one of Apple's main suppliers, seems to have consulted the works of Charles Dickens for management tips.
Employees at Foxconn's factories in China are reportedly treated like machines. In 2010, there were 13 suicides at the company's sprawling complex, known as Foxconn City. In response to mounting public pressure, Apple has asked an independent group called the Fair Labor Association to probe conditions at its suppliers.
While the move is a welcome step in the right direction, it raises some disturbing questions as to whether the company turned a blind eye to worker abuses as long as suppliers met its exacting demands for high quality at low prices. Apple spells out its philosophy on its website.
"Our goal, in a nutshell, is to obtain stellar products and services within tight timeframes, at a cost that represents the best possible value to our customers and shareholders," it says. "If that sounds like a daunting task, it's the same one we assign ourselves. . . . We take our social and environmental responsibilities seriously."
What Apple does not say is that there is no way American companies -- with their minimum wage and worker safety rules -- could meet its standards. Consider what happened when Apple needed to redesign the iPhone's screen at the last minute. New screens began arriving at a Chinese plant near midnight, and a foreman immediately woke up 8,000 workers who were sleeping in their rooms at the plant's dormitories.
"Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames, " the New York Times said. "Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day."
Did Apple chose to ignore evidence that workers were being mistreated by its suppliers? The computer maker was such a huge customer that companies that manufacture its products were probably too frightened to say "no" when there would be plenty of competitors eager to say "yes."
While the flexibility of China's manufacturing machine is impressive, the toll of almost nonstop labor on workers is huge. Some are asking for and getting higher wages from their employers. In fact, it's gotten to the point that some manufacturers are leaving China for even lower-wage countries.
The push for workers' rights in China will result in higher costs for American consumers. It's only a matter of time before the prices of Apple products reflect this new reality.
--Jonathan Berr is an Apple consumer but not a shareholder.
Apple is in business to bring the highest possible return for their shareholders. Apple is the one company that can make changes to the current system. I don't understand why there is not an occupy apple campaign going on. They have the second best quarter profit ever by a company and people want to still talk about the banks. Apple made a billion dollars of profit a week. A week. Not in the quarter, not in the month, but a week.
If you want change, then start with Apple. You know what, I bet they won't change much because they don't have too. They have almost $100 billion in the bank, a bunch of rabid fans, businesses are now using their products more and more. No need for them to do much more than make cosmetic changes. Not saying I agree with that, just sayin...
Apple's Foxconn iToy workers get paid 70 cents an hour to spend 10 hours, $180-240 month at 12-16 hours a day, building devices that end up costing $200 parts and $7 labor to build and sell for $600-800 retail. Apple could invest the billions required to automate the assembly process using the $80 billion they've raped from the workers. Apple could pay US workers $20-30 hour raising the device costs to $400-500 and cutting their profits in half. Apple's doesn't deserve all the blame. Apple's consumers share the blame and maybe if we start glaring at iPhone and iPad users for the responsibility of the business model they are worshiping, Apple will change. Apple may have to change if Microsoft and Nokia are successful at bringing a more responsible ecosystem to the mobile consumer market. Maybe Steve visualized the opportunity that existed as he did all those Eastern drugs in India and other countries.
Apple products cost more then any other tech company, yet their labor is extremely cheap, deathly cheap one could say, so all this BS about doing it so us customers can have cheaper prices is a lie. It's so their stock soars and their CEO and officers make huge bonuses.... Has nothing to do with their customers...
Apple has so much cash they don't know what to do with it all.... given that cash is stained with blood from workers at Foxcom... but hey there only chinese right? So who cares...
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