74 Million iPads. 26 Suicides. Did Steve Jobs Know?

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.

Institutionalized Dehumanization

From Yahoo! Finance:

“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 tcook@apple.com. But Daisey asks that you please don’t abuse this email address.


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Photo Credit: M.I.C Gadget


William C
William Cabout a year ago


W. C
W. Cabout a year ago

Thank you.

W. C
W. Cabout a year ago


Heather Marvin
Heather Marv5 years ago

People need to know what they are buying into, thanks! People can live without iphones.

Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence5 years ago

Of course he did ..

Judith Emerson
Judith Emerson6 years ago

Thank you. Sorry not to've been aware of this terrible abuse until i heard the story on THIS AMERICAN LIFE! However, i'm acting on the problem now & working to make my family & friends aware.

Carol K.
Carol K6 years ago

Yes. We all need to boycott Apple products.....when iPhone contracts expire, switch to another company. This Mac / Apple use is a cult and it's like "I save money at Walmart"....ignoring how big business abuses people - if our government won't punish them, the only way we can do it is NOT to buy their products - INCLUDING the iPhone. Was in Apple Store last week and saw two tour buses of Chinese students (with backpacks) --- over 200 cordoned off in the mall halls by police....waiting in line to buy IPhone 4S so they can give it to scalpers who paid them a meal for the day and they are shipping them back to China to sell to the elite Chinese who abuse their people too to make them!!!!! Do we really want or need this piece of crap technology SOOOOO bad that we can turn our backs on what it truly represents???

Charli Stubbs
Charlotte S6 years ago

Most companies may know about it but because profits are GOD ignore the human cost of the fancy houses, trips and the power they get on the backs of other humans. And they're trying to make our jobs here in the US just like the conditions in China because "we can't compete with all the regulations (ie safety) and living wages This is why the Unions are being stamped out. I remember what it was like before Unions.

Anne H.
Anne H6 years ago

I believe he knew. I believe he was a visionary but not a saint. I live in China and here is what I see, you want a $1 toy made for .25 no problem. You want a $1 toy made for .75, no problem. We the consumer need to be more savvy on our impact on the rest of the world. We need to stop blaming China and blame ourselves for not being more aware and hold those who produce things aware also.

Part of the ethos of Apple is to be in love w/ the product, they are very good at this. The loyalty, they don't play with others, only special friends. When Steve passed "I" devotees were talking about him like they were personal friends. News flash, they like others are a business.

Please watch the Story of Stuff to get an idea how all this works and make your purchases more carefully. We have entered a global economy, we cannot stop it. We have political negotiations that depend on it but we can become more aware and make better decisions in our every day lives.

Those who think bad worker conditions only exist outside the US need to become a bit more aware of their own back yards. Tranparency and the truth are not pretty but we cannot solve problems when we refuse to look at them.

Penelope P.
Penelope P6 years ago

http://exponentials.webs.com/index.htm -contains one solution to poverty and human abuse and exploitation