Since Steve Jobs passed away last month, there have been countless tributes to his undeniable creativity and genius. That’s the lighter side of Apple, but there’s also a darker side.
Care2 last week posted a blog from Adele Stan, of the AFL-CIO, which reported that in its fourth quarter earnings report released two weeks ago, Apple Computer revealed that 2/3 of its on-hand cash – some $54 billion — is squirreled away outside the boundaries of the United States, presumably to avoid paying its fair share of taxes.
And a new report, “The iSlave Behind the iPhone: Foxconn Workers in Central China,” examines conditions at the Apple Computer contractor’s plant since the suicides of several workers last year made big news. One thing that has changed: workers were given a raise — to all of $1.18 an hour.
The Life And Death Of A Foxconn Worker
Foxconn is the world’s largest electronic manufacturer, making products for Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Nokia.
One factory, situated in Shenzhen, central China, is so vast that walking around its outer perimeter takes two hours. The chefs slaughter 6,000 pigs a day to feed the company’s nearly 400,000 workers in this giant industrial complex, spread over 1.2 square miles.
Instal Netting To Prevent Suicides?
And at least 26 workers between the ages of 17 and 24 have committed suicide there. How has the company handled this? Therapy? Suicide mentoring? Improved working conditions? No, they’ve put up huge nets around the buildings, to make it harder for workers to kill themselves by jumping.
Mike Daisey is an actor whose current Off Broadway play is entitled “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” Daisey recently visited Foxconn and was shocked by what he found.
“What I was really shocked by was institutionalized dehumanization,” he says. “The systems that are put in place are working and the objective of them working is to work people, basically, to death.”
He’s talking about “massive production lines” where people work “endlessly.” Workers are never rotated and end up doing the same task hundreds of thousand of times. “I met many workers whose joints in their hands have disintegrated from doing that work…. [Hands] literally swollen, literally deformed [and] permanently warped,” he explains.
Daisey is also clear that this situation cannot be compared to factory conditions in America at the turn of the 20th century, since these are inherently different scenarios: in the early 1900s, there wasn’t an outside country with established labor laws exploiting people who have no freedom. As he puts it, “We chose to export our jobs and none of our values.”
And without a question, Daisey believes that Steve Jobs knew exactly what the conditions were on the ground at Foxconn.
Steve Jobs Knew All About Foxconn Conditions
From Yahoo! Finance:
And the same goes today for Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook. “Apple is a company that believes in micromanagement. They pay attention to details,” says Daisey. “There is not question in my mind that they know what conditions are like on the ground.”
Next time you look at your beautiful Apple computer, iPhone, or iPad, think about the fact that everything in them was made by hand, in the institutional dehumanization of Foxconn’s factory.
How To Make A Difference
And if you are moved by that, Daisey has a couple of tips on how you can make a difference:
#1 — Stop upgrading your technology all the time. By doing so you’d prevent pumping money back into the electronic industry so often, which signals demand to tech companies that then rush to satisfy that demand and produce new products. On top of that, it will save you money, save the environment and lessen the human costs to make these techonologies.
#2 — Email Apple CEO Tim Cook and tell him how you feel. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. But Daisey asks that you please don’t abuse this email address.
Photo Credit: M.I.C Gadget