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RATIONALIZE THIS: Do You Keep Your iPhone if People Died to Make It?

I'm "up with people" today on a Friday.  I'm going to wave the flag a bit, because there are plenty of bashers related to the situation in the US on a variety of fronts.  Times are tough.  Companies don't treat workers the right way.  The EEOC is running active PR campaigns to publicize the companies they sue.

As a result of tough times, lots of people like to rage against the machine that is America.  Companies suck.  There's not fairness, no equity.

You know what I'm saying to the haters?  If you really believe that America doesn't do things the right way, you need to give up your iPhone.  Probably your Android as well.  

Why?  Because for all the drama in America, people generally don't die in our workplaces.  And why you're sniffing the marketing juice of companies like Apple and thinking they're above the fray, the bottom line is it's a lot more complex that we care to admit.  From the New York Times:

"In the last decade, Apple has become one of the mightiest, richest and most successful companies in the world, in part by mastering global manufacturing. Apple and its high-technology peers — as well as dozens of other American industries — have achieved a pace of innovation nearly unmatched in modern history.

However, the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning."

Tim Cook replied to this article with the following letter.  Go give it a read.  That article says what I've known for awhile, but most people are unaware of.  The conditions in China are horrible.  Apple and everyone else takes advantage of that supply chain with limited human rights.  It makes the American workplace look like heaven.

My point?  Fairness and equity in the workplace is complicated.  Hate the way things are going in America?  Like to hate how much power companies have?

Cool.  You ought to give up your digital device when you compare that to what goes on in China out of protest.

Last time I checked, that American low wage manufacturer or hourly retail shop that has low-end jobs didn't have suicide nets.  

Be consistent.


Richard Scott Pearson

I do business in China and we cannot impose our values on their society. FoxCom employees about 400,000 people and the vast majority are very happy to have the job. If you take any US city of 400,000 people there is a much higher rate of suicide than workers at FoxCom. Last year wages and incentive pay were substantially increased - not because of bad press but because workers all over China are demanding higher wages. 70% of China's population still lives on the equivalent of $1400 USD a year - so employment at companies like FoxCom is very prestigious and lifts whole families out of poverty. Incidents at these companies are investigated by the Chinese gov. and they cannot get away with unsafe conditions like they could at one time. These new factories have modern campuses and sure, just like any large manufacturing companies around the world industrial accidents happen.

Joshua Westbrook

Excellent point Kris, if I understand it correctly. Everyone's goo-goo ga-ga over Apple, even though people died to make those cell phones. Now I highly respect Apple, and you can't blame Apple for a societal/cultural issue. And like Richard points out they're changing lives and having a positive impact in China net/net. But the irony is that an isolated situation at Pepsi happend with regards background checks and they have to pay over $3 million, thanks to the EEOC, and people are acting like Pepsi isn't a diversity leader or hasn't made more women and people of color executives than almost any other organization. On top of that, I doubt the same people who preach about Pepsi needing to be held accountable would be willing to give up their i-phone to hold Apple accountable.

WT Simmons

Companies like Apple have extra trouble, since many people seem to like double standards, and they like to pull down the mighty. The truth is that accidents and worse tragedies occur in all kinds of workplaces around the world where employers could and should be treating their workers better. To be consistent, people would have to give up a lot more than Apple products if they really want to boycott companies that have terrible working conditions in parts of their supply chains. The good news here is that Apple recognizes the problems and is in a better position than most to encourage positive change in other countries.


Rationalize This: Do you keep using electricity after people died in the USA to get it to you? W. Virgina 2010: 29 people died in a mine explosion. 4 years earlier, 2 other explosions killed 14. All because of known and ignored safety violations. I get your point, but you don't have to look far in our own back yard. By the way, I do not own a mobile device or cell phone (I'm probably the last person alive that doesn't), but Foxconn manufactures components for 50% of the technology in the world, so look to your game systems, your HD flat screen TVs, your computers, etc. No, these incidents are not acceptable, over there or over here. The message needs to be expanded.


This is such BS!

Will you stop wearing clothes because there is 10x abuse of cotton workers in India and Bangladesh?

Will you stop wearing leather shoes because the laborers that make those for you in India make half of what the Chinese in Foxconn make.

Will you stop eating fruits and vegetables because you can be assured there is a far more abuse in the middle american banana republics than you see in China?

Its time for such articles writers to travel the world- just like Steve Jobs did- and understand what life in these countries is like before they comment on things they don't understand.

Farmers in India commit suicide because they can't find enough food to eat. I don't know of anyone in foxconn who is being forced to work there. If they don't like it they have the freedom to walk out and take a less stressful job.


Scott and Ravi - read the post more carefully. I've got an iPhone and I'm not trading it in. My post is a call for people who love to wax poetic at great American companies for small issues, yet they can rationalize things they can't see all day long.

"As a result of tough times, lots of people like to rage against the machine that is America. Companies suck. There's not fairness, no equity.

You know what I'm saying to the haters? If you really believe that America doesn't do things the right way, you need to give up your iPhone. Probably your Android as well. "

Get off your high horse and understand I wasn't sitting on a high horse. I'm calling for a little balance when claiming that the American workplace is hopelessly flawed. Read the whole thing and stop reacting.


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