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Some Critics Suggest Apple Boycott Over Chinese Working Conditions 744

Posted by timothy
from the compared-to-what-exactly dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Guardian reports that Apple's image is taking a dive after revelations in the NY Times about working conditions in the factories of some of its network of Chinese suppliers and the dreaded word 'boycott' has started to appear in media coverage of Apple's activities. 'Should consumers boycott Apple?' asked a column in the Los Angeles Times as it recounted details of the bad PR fallout amid detailed allegations that workers at Foxconn suffered in conditions that resembled a modern version of bonded labor, working obscenely long shifts in unhealthy conditions with few of the labor rights that workers in the west would take for granted." Read on, below.
Pickens continues: "But Apple has come out fighting, which is no surprise given the remarkable success that the company has seen in recent years with its reputation for 'cool' among hip urban professionals and a generally positive corporate image. In a lengthy email sent to Apple staff, chief executive Tim Cook met the allegations head-on. 'We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern,' Cook said. He went on to slam critics of the company. 'Any suggestion that we don't care is patently false and offensive to us ... accusations like these are contrary to our values.' So will we see some kind of movement to boycott Apple products, akin to the campaign several years ago to pressure Nike to improve working conditions in its factories asks Sam Gustin in Time Magazine? "You can either manufacture in comfortable, worker-friendly factories, or you can reinvent the product every year, and make it better and faster and cheaper, which requires factories that seem harsh by American standards," an anonymous current Apple executive told the Times. "And right now, customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China.""
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Some Critics Suggest Apple Boycott Over Chinese Working Conditions

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:32AM (#38864333)

    If the sheer number of Apple devices at any given Occupy protest are any indication, it would seem the professional protestors who usually lead this kind of thing are going to bend over backwards to give Apple a free pass on just about anything. Christ, there were Occupy protestors CRYING the day Steve Jobs died--even as they rallied against our corporate overlords (with no sense of the irony at all). So unless you can sell them on the idea that Tim Cook has somehow corrupted their beloved Apple in the last few months, I would say your chances are pretty much nil.

    And this isn't meant as flamebait. Seriously, go to an Occupy protest sometime and just look at the sheer number of Mac's, iPhones, and iPads you'll see. It's fucking creepy. They've been for shit at organizing on any other point, but they've apparently almost all agreed on at least *one* thing.

    • by UberJugend (2519392) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:36AM (#38864371)
      "Dude you're a barista"
    • by oh_my_080980980 (773867) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:37AM (#38864379)
      Your flame bait rant aside....Just read the comments from Apple executives. They're enough to make you smash Apple products you own.

      The NYT article brings to light conditions and tragedies that many people did not know about. It's hard to ignore these images.
      • by lambent (234167) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:38AM (#38864395)

        These articles regarding Apple's labour practices have been fairly regular for years, now. It's not that many people did not know about it; it's that many people choose not to care about it.

        • by oh_my_080980980 (773867) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:44AM (#38864467)
          Alot of what was mentioned in the NY Times is new information. Describing worker dormitories, describing what Apple expected from the company to make a last minute product line changes; quoting Apple executives praising the working conditions.

          Combined with this news and Apple's 4Q financial reports, show's Apple in a very bad light. A very profitable company that doesn't care about the conditions of workers.
          • by jhoegl (638955) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:07AM (#38864761)
            You know what will fix this and bring jobs back to the USA? Accountability.
            Accountability for what your outsourced partner is doing, accountability for the third party you hire, and accountability for their working conditions on the same level with the USAs internal standards.

            Boycott? pppffttt... how about real punishment.
            • You know what will fix this and bring jobs back to the USA?

              Nothing. Steve Jobs was right. Those jobs aren't coming back, and not just because of wages. Tim Cook sold Jobs on moving the manufacturing to China for a number of reasons, many which make sense (one huge reason is that America has largely abandoned the kind of job training that makes both good electronics assembly workers and the foremen that oversee them). There's a pretty good podcast [coffeeandmarkets.com] here laying out most of the justifications. It sucks, but it'll likely never change. The change in education, labor laws, and factory investments would be so huge... in the trillions of dollars, on a truly industry-wide and nation-wide scale... that it'll almost certainly never happen.

            • by avandesande (143899) on Monday January 30, 2012 @12:45PM (#38865989) Journal

              Tariffs would do this too and are a large part of our US history. Tariffs are sanctioned by the WTO if your trade imbalance is >10%.
              So why don't we do it?

          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:10AM (#38864801)

            And Apple's not alone on this. Dell, HP, Sony, Microsoft ( Xbox360 ) all use Foxconn as well. I'm not being an Apple apologist... I believe that Apple knew full well what it was getting in to and the new plant in Brazil is an effort to distance themselves from Foxconn, but that's not enough. Apple should be taking a stand and stopping this treatment of workers. It's not their fault... that's Foxconn's faul and China's fault, but Apple should use its prowess to make change.

            ( And FYI All that info about worker dormatories etc isn't new.. The Register has done multiple pieces on the horrible working conditions for years... since 2006 even. )

            • by paleo2002 (1079697) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:22AM (#38864971)
              Now that Apple is popular and trendy, any mention of Apple in a news story is sure to attract attention, clicks, viewership, listeners, etc. News media doesn't care about working conditions in China any more than the average American, otherwise they'd be complaining about/to every tech company in the country. They just want the ratings that come with putting "Apple" in a story.

              On the other hand, if any company were to take an active stance on the working conditions of its production labor, I really think it'll be Apple. A couple years back when environmentalists picked up the "let's pick on Apple to gain attention" tactic, Apple responded with efforts to make their products greener and promote recycling. Obviously international labor laws aren't as easy to fix but Apple cares enough about its customers' opinions and its image to try.
              • by Xest (935314) on Monday January 30, 2012 @12:07PM (#38865531)

                "otherwise they'd be complaining about/to every tech company in the country. They just want the ratings that come with putting "Apple" in a story."

                Of course there is another, more likely possibility, though I suspect you missed it because your post really sounded just like a thinly veiled "I love Apple and they can do no wrong!" post.

                The more likely possibility is that reporters quite often do actually take an interest in human rights issues, and that they're focussing on Apple indeed partly because it's the most prominent target right now, but by hitting the most prominent, and most profitable target you're hitting the firm that has the most clout available to make the required changes, and the most to lose if it doesn't. You open the door for other firms to advertise their more ethical businesses if they take a stand and Apple doesn't, you basically leave Apple an ultimatum - change, or risk being outflanked by any competitors that do.

                This doesn't mean it'll work, if all firms decide to hold their ground and none are willing to change then it's of little benefit, but this tactic by reporters has worked well before. Your latter paragraph is evidence enough of that - Greenpeace was very vocal in pointing out Apple's poor track record on pollutants, and despite Steve Jobs initially telling them to f off, he was eventually left with little choice but to start changing things, as other firms started getting positive headlines because they were more green, whilst Apple was seeing continued negative press on the issue. Since then Apple has changed, but also the industry as a whole has upped it's game on the issue, so if it has the potential to work, unless you're one of those people who throws a fit if the press dares mention that Apple could improve in some area, then what's the problem?

            • by Asic Eng (193332)

              And Apple's not alone on this. Dell, HP, Sony, Microsoft ( Xbox360 ) all use Foxconn as well.

              That's true, but boycotts don't have to be fair to work. If a boycott is organized against manufacturer A, it might cause people merely to switch to manufacturer B, and B might be just as bad. However that wouldn't reduce the pressure felt by A, and A could be moved to improve their workers' conditions because of that.

              Once that's been successful the boycott could be switched to manufacturer B.

              And boycotts can

          • by Solandri (704621) on Monday January 30, 2012 @03:23PM (#38867869)

            Alot of what was mentioned in the NY Times is new information. Describing worker dormitories

            Why this obsession about worker dormitories? They're considered quite normal in developing countries because they're a solution to the chicken-and-egg problem of housing vs. jobs. How do you attract people to jobs at a new factory if there's inadequate housing nearby? How do you encourage builders to create housing nearby if there are no jobs?

            It also provides a means for a company to insulate their workers from rapid housing price inflation as the area surrounding the factory becomes more developed. You have to realize that unlike developed countries, most people taking a job at the factory do not have a financial nest egg or credit history with which to buy or rent housing. The dormitories are basically guaranteed fixed-price housing for such workers. When the government does it, it's called low-income housing; but when a company does it it's bad?

            And there's also differences in population density between Asia and Western Europe, and especially the U.S. and Canada. Each family at a new factory having their own tract home with a garage, white picket fence, and 2.2 kids is simply unrealistic in most Asian countries. At best, on average everyone is going to own a block unit in a high rise apartment.

            Is it because Western countries don't have them? The concept seems to recur frequently in developing economies [wikipedia.org]. It goes through several give-and-take cycles as management vs. labor struggle with each other, until eventually the working class develops enough of a financial base and negotiating power not to need them anymore. While the pendulum is on management's side right now, swinging it back is something which has to happen internally. If foreign countries apply pressure and get it changed, it's never going to feel genuine. Chinese management is going to feel that it happened because outsiders forced them to make it happen, not because it came about naturally as a consequence of poor labor conditions. So they'll always be striving to change it back behind the scenes, instead of accepting that that's the way it's gotta be.

            Developing an economy is not like jumping quantum states. You can't take a third world economy and instantaneously convert it into a developed first world economy. There's a long, meandering path you have to take as the economy gradually builds up, and worker dorms are just a milestone along that journey. It's a step up from shanty towns.

        • by Mitreya (579078) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <ayertim>> on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:19AM (#38864927)
          These articles regarding Apple's labour practices have been fairly regular for years, now. It's not that many people did not know about it; it's that many people choose not to care about it.

          Why is Apple being singled out, anyway? Is the implication that Apple is worse than EVERY OTHER electronics-manufacturing company? I can't remember the last time I bought something electronic NOT made in China (my old Fujitsu laptop was made in Japan... can't think of anything else)

          • by M. Baranczak (726671) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:45AM (#38865261)

            They're singled out because they're the most visible. That's the price you pay for being at the head of the pack. If they don't like it - maybe they should do something about the factory conditions.

            "Everybody else is doing it" wasn't a valid defense when you were 7, and it's not a valid defense when you're running a giant corporation.

            • by Mitreya (579078)
              They're singled out because they're the most visible. That's the price you pay for being at the head of the pack. If they don't like it - maybe they should do something about the factory conditions.
              "Everybody else is doing it" wasn't a valid defense when you were 7, and it's not a valid defense when you're running a giant corporation.

              I fail to see a good reason to boycott the most visible company for shoddy labor practices while ignoring others. My point wasn't "don't boycott Apple, everybody else is

              • It's called "making an example out of someone". Nothing hypocritical about it. Punishing all the guilty parties is not practical, as you just said, so we just punish the most prominent one. Often, that's enough to scare the others into changing their behavior.

        • by Truekaiser (724672) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:41AM (#38865215)

          Take a good look at this.. this is how was here in the late 1800s and early 1900s. And that is what all the political class wants to go back too.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:56AM (#38864627)

        Your flame bait rant aside....Just read the comments from Apple executives. They're enough to make you smash Apple products you own.

        Agreed. It's one thing to make your products in factories operating under those conditions, but the apple exutive seemed to be so proud of the fact that they have near-slaves building their products when he described the condition under which they work. I can't even imagine what he was thinking when he described all that the way he did. A normal person holds back when talking about something they know other people probably wouldn't approve of, especially when it's a major corporation with a public image to uphold. He seemed oblivious to the fact that people might not approve. I couldn't decide if he was clueless or a sociopath.

      • by Pieroxy (222434)

        In my view, the real question should not be "should we boycott iPhones" but "which smartphone do we boycott". There is no reason Apple should be the only smarphone manufacturer under inspection, and I haven't read anywhere a comparison.

        And in case they're all bad, you will never get enough people to boycott all Smartphones. But compare the manufacturers: RIM, HTC, Apple, Samsung, SONY, Nokia and you can find the worst offender. Then, you can put pressure on the worst offender.

        That way, you can raise the man

        • by pscottdv (676889)

          In my view, the real question should not be "should we boycott iPhones" but "which smartphone do we boycott". There is no reason Apple should be the only smarphone manufacturer under inspection, and I haven't read anywhere a comparison.

          And in case they're all bad, you will never get enough people to boycott all Smartphones. But compare the manufacturers: RIM, HTC, Apple, Samsung, SONY, Nokia and you can find the worst offender. Then, you can put pressure on the worst offender.

          That way, you can raise the manufacturing conditions by the bottom, which makes sense. But I somehow doubt Apple is one of the worst offender. I may be wrong.

          No, the way to raise manufacturing conditions is to put pressure on the most VISIBLE company. That puts pressure on everyone. Apple is the most visible, so start with them and when they reform, the others will have to follow in order to compete.

    • by Suki I (1546431) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:37AM (#38864383) Homepage Journal

      If the sheer number of Apple devices at any given Occupy protest are any indication, it would seem the professional protestors who usually lead this kind of thing are going to bend over backwards to give Apple a free pass on just about anything. Christ, there were Occupy protestors CRYING the day Steve Jobs died--even as they rallied against our corporate overlords (with no sense of the irony at all). So unless you can sell them on the idea that Tim Cook has somehow corrupted their beloved Apple in the last few months, I would say your chances are pretty much nil.

      And this isn't meant as flamebait. Seriously, go to an Occupy protest sometime and just look at the sheer number of Mac's, iPhones, and iPads you'll see. It's fucking creepy. They've been for shit at organizing on any other point, but they've apparently almost all agreed on at least *one* thing.

      I am surprised that the Apple community does not go after Apple about wages like other did about the Nike plants outside the USA. Some recent article about Steve Jobs quoted an Apple executive saying paying US wages in mainland China (instead of $17/day) would only increase the price of an iPad by $70.

      • Wrong answer... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RobinEggs (1453925) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:49AM (#38864547)

        Some recent article about Steve Jobs quoted an Apple executive saying paying US wages in mainland China (instead of $17/day) would only increase the price of an iPad by $70.

        And if you were going to pay US wages you could always, I don't know, build the damn thing in America?

        I'm not exactly a Buy American nazi, but if the flagship products of greenwashing high-end manufacturers can't be built here, then what can?

        • Re:Wrong answer... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Suki I (1546431) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:56AM (#38864629) Homepage Journal

          Some recent article about Steve Jobs quoted an Apple executive saying paying US wages in mainland China (instead of $17/day) would only increase the price of an iPad by $70.

          And if you were going to pay US wages you could always, I don't know, build the damn thing in America?

          I'm not exactly a Buy American nazi, but if the flagship products of greenwashing high-end manufacturers can't be built here, then what can?

          Maybe not. The Chinese allow business to setup differently than we do here in America:
          See this recent NYT article. [nytimes.com]

          It is hard to estimate how much more it would cost to build iPhones in the United States. However, various academics and manufacturing analysts estimate that because labor is such a small part of technology manufacturing, paying American wages would add up to $65 to each iPhone’s expense. Since Apple’s profits are often hundreds of dollars per phone, building domestically, in theory, would still give the company a healthy reward.

          • Re:Wrong answer... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by bennomatic (691188) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:36AM (#38865161) Homepage

            Some recent article about Steve Jobs quoted an Apple executive saying paying US wages in mainland China (instead of $17/day) would only increase the price of an iPad by $70.

            And if you were going to pay US wages you could always, I don't know, build the damn thing in America?

            I'm not exactly a Buy American nazi, but if the flagship products of greenwashing high-end manufacturers can't be built here, then what can?

            Maybe not. The Chinese allow business to setup differently than we do here in America: See this recent NYT article. [nytimes.com]

            It is hard to estimate how much more it would cost to build iPhones in the United States. However, various academics and manufacturing analysts estimate that because labor is such a small part of technology manufacturing, paying American wages would add up to $65 to each iPhone’s expense. Since Apple’s profits are often hundreds of dollars per phone, building domestically, in theory, would still give the company a healthy reward.

            If you're just talking about assembly, $65/phone additional cost is probably about right at minimum wage. But don't forget that the great majority of the components are sourced from vendors who make them at factories with similar conditions. If you build every last piece here in the states, you're talking quite a bit more.

            And that's after the sunk costs of getting the factories going. If you amortize the cost of those factories even over several years, you're probably adding a cost greater than that of the labor. Long story short, a fully US-made phone will cost more. How many people would be willing to pay $1500 or more for a "fair trade" device?

            And don't forget, there are a lot of materials that are sourced from far off locations where work conditions are not great, to say the least. If you're using a cell phone--any phone, not just an iPhone--you've helped fund a civil war and sex-slavery in the Congo. And it's not just phones; the materials that are most common there are used in computers, DVD players, TVs...

        • No you cannot (Score:5, Informative)

          by coder111 (912060) <{coder} {at} {rrmail.com}> on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:01AM (#38864675)
          There were several articles about why Apple doesn't build its hardware in US any more- I'm too tired to google them for you right now. It's not so much about wages, but more about scalability of production, flexibility and supply lines. It was completely impossible to set up manufacturing quickly and do last minute changes scale it up rapidly the way Foxconn did anywhere in US- sometimes at human cost. One of the reasons was that Foxconn had workers living in barracks to be woken up and shuffled into the factories when needed. And they had A LOT of workers, including qualified engineers available. Another reason is that almost all of the suppliers of components are in China already, so supply lines for parts are much shorter.

          The article even mentioned Obama personally asking Steve Jobs what it would take to get manufacturing back to US, and the answer was it was no longer possible.

          --Coder
          • Re:No you cannot (Score:5, Interesting)

            by gl4ss (559668) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:27AM (#38865045) Homepage Journal

            scalability of production is exactly about wages. they just don't want to admit that. why the supply lines are in china? because all the fucking parts are made around there - and why they're made there? well doh, cheaper wages, cheaper real estate and shorter lines to the factory where they're assembled into a product. it's not like the final assembly is that much of the actual work that goes in to a typical apple product.

            because you'd need to pay a shitload of cash for people to work as if they were on a gig on an oil drilling platform whilst really just folding boxes for the xmas season..

            and the answer for how to get the jobs back to america would be to work smarter, not harder. the same way somehow germans manage to make cars consistently year after year and bring in a buck.

            • by coder111 (912060) <{coder} {at} {rrmail.com}> on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:43AM (#38865233)
              Ok, you are Apple. It's 2005, and you are building a new phone, and you think demand for it will be huge. You know you need it made for market in 2007, i.e. in two years. What do you do?

              a) Start building a new factory in USA paying for everything UP FRONT. You'll be lucky if you get planning permissions & foundations for the factory done in 2 years, never mind complete tooling and the people to run it. Besides shipping times for components that are already being made in china are 35 days. So if you find out that chip X needs to be changed to chip Y because of some issue, you'll have to wait for 35 days to get a shipment of chip Y. Shipping components by plane costs 10x more and is unfeasible.

              b) Contract it out to Foxconn. They have the factory and the people to run it RIGHT NOW. It's tried. It's tested. It works. If your phone is successful, they'll get more factory space and people on manufacturing it in a matter of days or weeks, not months. Components are shipped by train or truck over a matter of hours or days. You don't have to pay them much until manufacturing starts.

              What would you do if you were Steve Jobs?

              I'm all for getting as much of manufacturing as possible done by robots. I haven't worked in a car factory, but I imagine robots are LESS flexible than people, so if you want to do a new model 6 months later, you'd find it very hard to reconfigure the factory to produce it. I believe having a robotic factory FLEXIBLE is possible, but right now its probably hard and expensive. And even then for electronic devices, unless all of your suppliers are in USA, it is not going to happen.

              --Coder
        • No, because here we have the EPA, land and building codes that cost actual money, and engineers with 4/6 year degrees that aren't willing to work for minimum wage.

          That is what makes China so attractive.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rsmith-mac (639075)

        Only increase the price of an iPad by $70.

        Just to play Devil's Advocate here, while you may be willing to pay $70 more does that mean everyone else will? A standard of living is effectively defined as being how much money you make versus how much of that money you have to spend to acquire goods. To pay more for electronics is tantamount to a decrease in the standard of living for westerners, and no one is going to be in favor of giving up their standard of living.

        • Pay them a quarter of a US wage then. That will only add $20 to the price, and still be a lot more than they're currently getting. Additionally, it will mean that a lot of them will actually be able to afford Apple products, increasing the size of the potential market.
      • by pr0nbot (313417) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:12AM (#38864821)

        The Economist ran an article about China's balance of trade last week which included a breakdown of the value (price) of an iPad. Just over 50% was costs, the rest was profit, of which 30% to Apple (the rest to others in the supply chain). Chinese labour costs were minimal at 2%. They could perhaps reduce their profits to redistribute wealth from their execs/shareholders to the workers.

        http://www.economist.com/node/21543174 [economist.com]

        • by Suki I (1546431) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:21AM (#38864961) Homepage Journal

          The Economist ran an article about China's balance of trade last week which included a breakdown of the value (price) of an iPad. Just over 50% was costs, the rest was profit, of which 30% to Apple (the rest to others in the supply chain). Chinese labour costs were minimal at 2%. They could perhaps reduce their profits to redistribute wealth from their execs/shareholders to the workers.

          http://www.economist.com/node/21543174 [economist.com]

          That is more what I was thinking, instead of adding to the price. If those #Occupy people practiced what they preached, Apple stores would be under siege instead of being mobbed by weeping customers at the loss of Dear Leader.

          • by HuguesT (84078)

            Please mod parent up, this is the most relevant information: Chinese manufacturing represents 2% of the cost of an Ipad. i.e 10$ for the $500 Ipad, whereas Apple profits represent 30% !

            It would be fairly trivial for Apple to improve working conditions in China.

    • by August_zero (654282) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:43AM (#38864447)

      "And this isn't meant as flamebait. "

      And yet it is.

      Apple isn't getting a free pass, a lot of people are just not very well informed about the matter. Now that Apple's manufacturing practices are becoming better known, there is a growing back lash. Will it last? Maybe, maybe not. The truth is that the electronic devices like smart phones, computers and tablets are a part of everyday life in the US for a very large part of the population. Convincing people that they need to pay more for these devices isn't an easy cause to champion.

      I am not even sure what the point of your comment was outside of a thinly veiled stab at a political movement that you obviously disagree with. Should everyone give a free pass to Apple just because you produced an anecdote that occupy protesters use too many apple devices?

      • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:59AM (#38864663)

        I am not even sure what the point of your comment was outside of a thinly veiled stab at a political movement that you obviously disagree with.

        Quite the contrary. I strongly support the idea of fighting corporatocracy. But if the movement is ever going to achieve anything it's going to have to be much more CONSISTENT and MAINSTREAM. Consistent means that selected corps like Apple and Democratic politicians don't get free passes. Mainstream means that the movement has to be more than just the standard hippie and drum-circle crowd (and no hippies guarding the gates with a "We don't want to let in any poseurs who don't even own a hemp shirt" attitude).

        • by Maow (620678)

          I am not even sure what the point of your comment was outside of a thinly veiled stab at a political movement that you obviously disagree with.

          Quite the contrary. I strongly support the idea of fighting corporatocracy. But if the movement is ever going to achieve anything it's going to have to be much more CONSISTENT and MAINSTREAM.

          So, have you shown up to add mainstream credibility?

          Consistent means that selected corps like Apple and Democratic politicians don't get free passes.

          I kinda despise Apple's attitude, but what phone is not made in China under dubious conditions? I bought a cheap (Android) phone, and plan on not replacing it for as long as possible. Same with my computers, I keep them as long as possible so as to not support the manufacturing conditions and electronic waste that the replacement cycle encourages.

          Also, seems to me the Occupy movement has decidedly not taken the side of the Democrats. You sure you're not

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      I used to think that people wanted American products without American price tags. Apple has convinced me that the problem is a lot more difficult to define. People will pay outrageous prices for certain things, but everything else has to be dirt cheap.

      Just searching for "apple margin iphone" shows that they are taking maybe 35%, down from 60% earlier. I find it hard to believe that hiring US workers would bring it down considerably. The design and development cost wouldn't change, just the profit margin

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by beelsebob (529313)

      What's idiotic about this is that every tech company gets its products made by the same factories. Why are they proposing boycotting apple, not boycotting all tech companies?

      Oh, that's right, because boycotting all tech companies would be impossible to make happen, and apple are an easy scapegoat.

      • by jholyhead (2505574) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:03AM (#38864713)
        Did you read the NYT article?

        You didn't? I'm shocked.

        If you had, you would have realised that the other tech companies often pay these manufacturers more money to be spent on improving work conditions, whereas Apple chooses to squeeze them for every dirty brown penny, which inevitably leads to cuts in worker pay and conditions.

        If you'd read the article you would also know that whilst Apple has a very pretty code of conduct for their suppliers, it is common for them to simply ignore infractions of that code of conduct, with fewer than 15 suppliers terminated for non-compliance since 2007, even though there are scores of the most serious breaches of that code of conduct recorded every year.

        Apple does a lot of talking about worker safety, but they don't do a whole lot of walking.
    • by prefec2 (875483) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:06AM (#38864749)

      Ah so you state that people are not totally consitent in their behavior. While they have accepted that corporations are not working in the public interest (at least their motivation is not the public interest, but their own pockets), they are still bound by their desires and wishes and they live out their projections. This is definitely true. but it is true for all of us. Some people even do not accept simple facts, like we have an energy consuption and a resource consumption problem. And we have to change our way or it will become problematic to have such thing as our present society.

      The real thing is, we have to change (not the others, if we wait for them, they will wait for us). Meaning I have to change how I live. And you should change how you live. And doing these changes are hard. And yes we should thin twice buying anything from Apple again as long they have that production agenda and they have their locked plattforms. However, it might be complicated, because Samsung, HTC and others manufacture their devices i nthe same or similar shops.

      The best thing to do, do not buy a new phone unless the old is broken. And if possible, replace the battery if you can instead of throwing the thing away.

      The good thing about that occupy movement (as far as I can see it from over here), they might be open to arguments. Therefor, they might understand the arguments againts Apple.

    • by jeffmeden (135043) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:13AM (#38864833) Homepage Journal

      Tim Cook met the allegations head-on:

      'Any suggestion that we don't care is patently false and offensive to us ... accusations like these are contrary to our values.'

      There you have it, "we care because we say we care, and therefore those workers are obviously cared for." Wow, Tim, way to keep the reality distortion field alive!

    • While I don't have sufficient information about the gadget demographics of the various occupy movements to respond to the truth of your post one way or the other, I'm a bit confused about why that is relevant here.

      Although broad and rather amorphous, the major focus(or foci) of 'occupy' seems to have been situations where the non-plutocrat Americans have been stuck playing a rigged game. The immediate flashpoints tend to be areas where it is nakedly obvious that a game of "heads I win, tails you lose" is
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Professional protesters? You mean I can get paid for protesting?

      But you're right; Occupy isn't about working conditions in China, it's a protest against a corporate culture of greed and double standards. There's no reason at all to think they'll protest Apple, even if they were all using androids instead of iPhones.

  • by improfane (855034) * on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:33AM (#38864343) Journal

    To those who have been watching Apple for years, this is just a long list of transgressions that make it obvious to avoid Apple.

    - Walled gardens, vendor lock in
    - Taking down applications from the App Store and including versions in iOS
    - Spurious litigation and anti-competitive lawsuits in Germany and Australia
    - CarrierIQ, GPS tracking privacy gaffes
    - Planned failure just after warranty period (ever since the original pod)

    When you think of products that are so anti consumer (not necessarily anti-usability), Apple comes to mind. As for many here, it's just business as usual as I will never buy an Apple product (especially after the first pod) anyway.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:07AM (#38864763)

      Walled Gardens. This keeps getting touted as a negative. Are you fucking kidding? I LOVE Apple's walled garden!

      I'm a Flash developer fed up with Chinese sites tearing our games off our site and hosting them for free.

      Where else can I go to make a game by myself, sell it, and not have a cracked version appear on pirate bay shortly after?

    • by root_42 (103434) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:32AM (#38865107) Homepage

      I think half of you points are invalid. The planned failure is a mere rumor, I would think. Is there any proof for that? From my experience, Apple hardware has about the same failure rate as other manufacturers. We have dozens of Apple devices in use, besides dozens of other manufacturer's laptops, workstations, servers and assorted hardware. iMac, MBP, iPod, iPhone, iPad... My work laptop is a MBP from late 2008. It is now 3.5 years old, has traveled with me for thousands of miles, seen every day use (as in 8hrs / day). And apart from the battery being replaced after three years, the thing is happily working and very, very sturdy. The same goes for our other Apple laptops. The iPod Touch (2nd gen) are also now quite old and are still in use for coding and teaching.

      And again, Apple should not be singled out when it comes to Carrier IQ and the GPS story. The same problems persist(ed?) on numerous other smartphones as well. The GPS flaw was fixed very quickly and the Carrier IQ version that once came with iOS was not sending keystrokes and similar stuff, as seemed to happen on other platforms. Since iOS 5 this piece of the software has been removed anyway. I think it is a good thing that the community takes a close look at Apple's releases, and that flaws like this get mentioned. The downside is of course that fixes might take some time to get incorporated, if we are unlucky. Compared to pure Open Source systems, I cannot easily patch my iPhone (although I heard some fixes make it into Cydia quite quickly).

      The walled garden argument is a weak one. Apple's goal was to make the software platform of iOS a rather secure one, and their solution is the iOS developer program. This system is a system of trust, and it means that software developed for iOS comes from a trusted source (you, the developer). I think this is a good idea. To fund this system, one pays 79 EUR per year, and if you do so, you can use the whole toolchain of Apple's development framework to do whatever you like on your iPhone. If you don't want to do that, it's fine. You can wait for the latest Jailbreak to be released. The frameworks and APIs are well documented and in that sense quite open (yes, many things are not free as in speech, but many other things on iOS are).

    • by stewbacca (1033764) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:36AM (#38865155)

      Nice troll.You need to define "obvious". Because to me, it is obvious that Apple makes really good devices that work the way most people like.

      Planned failure is a joke of an accusation. I have a 1999 G4 that still works pretty well and has had zero defective parts. I have a 2nd and 3rd generation iPod that are on their original batteries. I've got a 2006 Intel Macbook (the one you are supposedly supposed to avoid as a first-gen product) and a 2006 Intel iMac, both work with very few problems (DVD doesn't work on the Macbook). I have a first gen iPhone that still works. I think there's plenty of data showing that Apple quality in the long run is industry-leading.

      They dropped CarrierIQ with iOS5, which is more than most competitors can say.

      "Vendor" lock-in. That is an imaginary Apple problem. Vendor is right there in your accusation. Vendor. As in not Apple. Isn't that what vendor means? You realize the iPhone is available on 3 out of the 4 major carriers in the US? How is that locked-in to anything? How are two-year contracts for subsidized phone prices any different than HTC and Samsung on any network?

      Please. There are plenty of reasons to not like a product, but your short list is pretty lame. Walled garden is your only valid point, and that's only valid to the minority of geeks who don't understand the success of the walled-garden approach.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:33AM (#38864347) Homepage Journal

    Next, boycott anyone who can't guarantee their workers receive a decent standard of living...

    • by MrHanky (141717) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:39AM (#38864401) Homepage Journal

      Exactly. Because even though we know Apple's workers conditions are shit, we have no idea how other phone manufacturers fare. Like with all other tech in the mainstream press, if it's not Apple, it just isn't a story.

      • by beelsebob (529313) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:48AM (#38864539)

        Actually, we have a very good idea, in the exact same factories covered in the articles, are Dell production lines, and Nokia production lines... We know exactly what the conditions are like, because they all use the exact same giant factories. Which just makes a call to boycot apple alone retarded.

      • by Mr.123 (661787) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:08AM (#38864773)
        Chinese Readers on the ‘iEconomy’

        If not to buy Apple, what’s the substitute – Samsung? Don’t you know that Samsung’s products are from its OEM factory in Tianjin? Samsung workers’ income and benefits are even worse than those at Foxconn. If not to buy iPad – (do you think) I will buy Android Pad? Have you ever been to the OEM factories for Lenovo and ASUS? Quanta, Compaq factories of other companies are all worse than those for Apple. Not to buy iPod – (do you think) I will buy Aigo, Meizu? Do you know that Aigo’s Shenzhen factory will not pay their workers until the 19th of the second month? If you were to quit, fine, I’m sorry, your salary will be withdrawn. Foxconn never dares to do such things. First, their profit margin is higher than peers as they manufacture for Apple. Second, at least those foreign devils will regularly audit factories. Domestic brands will never care if workers live or die. I am not speaking for Foxconn. I am just speaking as an insider of this industry, and telling you some disturbing truth. — Anonymous.

        http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/25/chinese-readers-on-the-ieconomy/ [nytimes.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:35AM (#38864361)

    Wow. Poor working conditions in a Chinese factory? I'd never have guessed.

    The question is, how does this compare to other factories in China? Better or worse? Because if the working conditions at Apple's Chinese partners are on par with or better than the conditions at other Chinese factories, then we had better boycott *all* Chinese-produced products and not just those shiny Apple toys.

    Yay! Linux is free... but it still runs on hardware produced in a Chinese factory.

    • "All these other plants are horrible as well so we should just accept the perhaps slightly less horribleness of Apple's plant conditions."

      Nope. If true (and it very well could be), that means the problem is bigger, which means we need to fight harder to solve it, not just roll over.

      • by JWW (79176)

        But the larger problem is that, for many of the workers, the option is keep the job at the factory, or go back to dirt farming.

        The factory is actually the better option. The problem here is that poverty in China is massive.

        Like it or not these plants represent opportunity for those working there. Now, it is debatable that the plants should give the workers more opportunity and less work, but their options if they leave the plant are likely worse.

    • by CaptainLard (1902452) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:06AM (#38864739)
      It may be true that all products from China are produced under similar conditions so the people building samsungs and acers have it just as bad as those building iStuff. However, some of Apple's success is attributed to the massive quantities they purchase and how they hold great power over manufacturers to drive their cost down. I'd say this also makes apple the most effective target for a boycott. Their control as the single buyer of vast numbers of parts puts them in the unique position to be able to improve working conditions. Instead of saying "we'll buy 50,000,000 LCD screens if you reduce the cost by 3% or sell to us exclusively" they could say "we'll buy 50,000,000 screens if you stop making workers live in pens and let them have friends/unionize". Of course, the only reason they would do such a crazy thing would be because of a massive boycott. It would seem that if you care about how your stuff is made, your best bet is to go after the biggest fish.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tharsman (1364603)

      From what I hear from people that know better: If you ever experienced American working conditions, you would never find Foxconn working conditions acceptable or even humane. However, if you have never left China, Foxconn may be the best chance at avoiding starvation. Other factories are far worse. In fact, the only reason we hear from Foxconn issues is because of its link to Apple. If we actually cared, we would be hearing about Aigo’s Shenzhen factory, or Samsung's OEM factory in Tianjin, that pays

  • Boycott Foxconn? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Akido37 (1473009) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:39AM (#38864403)
    All of these articles about Apple's supply chain seem to ignore one fact: Apple's aren't the only products made in these factories.

    Want to boycott horrific working conditions? Stop buying everything. Even Made in America products have parts or raw materials from overseas sweatshops. Electricity in the United States is typically powered by coal, which routinely ignores safety regulations.

    The problem isn't Apple. The problem is lax governmental regulation that allows this to happen. Want to stop Apple from using sweatshops? Want to stop Google and Facebook from tracking your every move? Make it illegal, and enforce the damned law.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      Or how about push for more freedom in economic areas.

      Want to stop bad labor conditions in China? Have China switch to a capitalist economy so workers have more options and can shop around.

      Want to stop bad labor conditions in the US? Don't work at a job that you feel is unsafe. No one is putting a gun to the back of your head saying you MUST work in coal mining. Coal mining is known to be unsafe and if they feel unsafe then simply quit their job.

      While China does have plenty of human rights abuses
  • Boycott? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wjcofkc (964165) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:40AM (#38864417)
    I am really confused about this. My Android handset was made in China under Foxconn like condition if not at Foxconn itself. If we are going to boycott Apple on this, shouldn't we boycott every Android handset\tablet, along with a shit ton of other electronics that we all know and use daily?

    Seriously, I don't understand why boycott just apple on this. Shouldn't we boycott ALL chinese manufactured electronics? A broader movement maybe?
    • Re:Boycott? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by clifyt (11768) <sonikmatterNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:51AM (#38864577) Homepage

      Same with Dell who's laptops are made there, as are Compaq's and HP's, and Microsoft's products including the Xbox 360 -- in which the factory where Apple was getting all the hate because Foxcon employees were threatening suicide weren't even manufacturing Apple products -- but the XBOX360 and Kinect in the ramp up to Christmas.

      Its funny that Apple gets all the shit, when in fact, they make up a small part of this company's output -- and they are the only ones that for the last several years have been asking for reports from the companies involved, been actively reducing child labor (they fired a company that was found to have child labor two years in a row), they have asked the wages of the employees making the devices in these companies be raised (far more than the ones making the XBOX products), and are actively trying to change the culture. Last year, a lot of the products that were being manufactured by hand were transitioned to robots because of the repetitive nature of the task...and were shit on for 'firing employees' when they did this.

      Its fucked up how much Apple gets shit on with this...its like Greenpeace going after Apple and listing them lower when their practices were far better than any other manufacture with Greenpeace first stating that they were looking for improvement from a baseline (i.e., where was the company a few years ago vs. now...not who is actually better), and then pretty much admitting it was a publicity stunt because of Apple's image...never actually admitting that their products were far ahead of the competition.

      That said, I would fucking shoot myself in the head if I had to work in conditions like in Foxcon...that is if my family wasn't fined for me doing so and put into prison camps to pay for my crime against society. Even the best fucking sucks...

    • Re:Boycott? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by strength_of_10_men (967050) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:22AM (#38864977)

      I have exactly one Apple device: an iPod touch that was given to me. I'm not fan boy, but even I think this boycott makes no sense.

      However, it's pretty clear that if they were to pick one company to target, it would almost HAVE to be Apple. They have the largest "mindshare" at the moment and, combined with their spectacular profit margins and sales, can most likely effect change in the factories' working conditions

      I'm no global economist, but I think Apple might be able to use this to their competitive advantage. Just insist that Foxconn raise all worker wages for EVERY product they manufacture. Apple will take a hit on each product's profit margin (and still be massively profitable), but competitors, who are operating on thinner margins, won't be able to easily absorb the price increase.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:45AM (#38864471) Homepage

    The problem is the companies are attracted to the WalMart prices for labor... or more precisely, "manufacturing services." The companies pay for results and get them. It doesn't matter that they murder kittens in those facilities does it?

    The boycott, if any, should be against China... more specifically, Chinese manufacturing. This is precisely how they can cost so little. If they were to raise their standards, they would be more expensive and suddenly less attractive. And the only real way around this is to call for government support and sanctions.

    The US government is well aware of the conditions in China. They still have favored nation status where trading is concerned. Everyone wants their WalMart prices badly enough to look away when faced with violations of human rights and simply bad and unhealthy working conditions.

    These cost savings enjoyed by Apple doesn't seem to translate well into lower prices though...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      Boycotting China wouldn't help.

      The root problem is China is a communist state with a restrictive market that prevents people from "shopping around" and getting the best prices possible for their labor.

      The west has boycotted North Korea for several years and because of that human rights violations are nearly non-existent, North Korea now has a thriving economy and freely elected leaders... Oh wait... Because of North Korea's isolation they've descended even deeper into leader worship, further behind
  • by Azuaron (1480137) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:47AM (#38864511)

    The Chinese sweatshop Apple employs for the iEverythings is Foxconn. Other stuff Foxconn works on/componies Foxconn works for:

    • Playstation 3
    • XBox 360
    • Wii
    • Kindle
    • Nook
    • Acer
    • Asus
    • Dell
    • HP
    • Intel
    • IBM
    • Motorola
    • Netgear
    • Every other technology company ever.

    If you're not buying from a company that uses Foxconn, you're not buying tech.

  • NY Times FUD (Score:5, Informative)

    by DaveyJJ (1198633) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:52AM (#38864595) Homepage
    Actually, it wasn't very nice of the NY Times to not put the stats they used to suggest a boycott of Apple into any sort of context. So I'll do that for them ... 18 suicides per million workers at Foxconn? OK, that's very sad, but the Chinese national average is 220 per million. More than 12X higher. 7 fatal workplace injuries per million workers at Foxconn? Agains, tragic. But the US(!) national average is 35. 5X more. Average salary for production workers at Foxconn only $6,000? To us privileged Westerners, that seems like a pittance. The average for China as a whole? $4,500 or 25% less than Foxconn workers. I'm not suggesting that Foxconn is a dream job, without harsh conditions etc etc. But to not provide context for your statistics is disingeous at best, and deliberately dishonest at worst. And what, exactly, would a boycott actually do?
  • by Harold Halloway (1047486) on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:54AM (#38864615)

    I need to know what the cheapest Apple product is, please? The reason is, I'm pretty penniless right now so boycotting e.g. a MacBook would be an empty gesture as I can't afford one anyway. However if I can refuse to buy something that I could afford e.g. an iPod Shuffle or an iPhone dock or something then I'm right behind you, sisters.

  • Perspective (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pausanias (681077) <pausaniasx AT gmail DOT com> on Monday January 30, 2012 @10:56AM (#38864625)

    A Chinese commenter to the NYT site said that if people had known the lives of these people prior to Foxconn, they would come to the opposite condition and call Apple philanthropists.

  • A better question. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sgt scrub (869860) <saintium@@@yahoo...com> on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:02AM (#38864689)

    How long before people American's can't afford the product at "Made in China" prices? If nobody has a job. the boycott will come to Apple. Like it or not.

  • by Harold Halloway (1047486) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:07AM (#38864767)

    I note that few of the Apple fanbois have chosen to defend Apple here. Rather they just bleat that 'everyone does it', as though that's ever been much of a justification for appalling behaviour.

  • by ghostdoc (1235612) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:12AM (#38864823)

    Western countries, and particularly the UK during the first heady rush of the Industrial Age, had working practices that would horrify the most suicidal Foxconn worker while they moved from a rural to an industrial economy. The USA actually practiced slavery during this period of their development. This is nothing new and while it is horrible, it's an essential part of the development of an economy.

    The only thing a developing country can do to lure investment from the more developed economies is sell cheap labour. Luckily, there is a progression from cheap labour to educated workforce that means it's usually only a single generation that has to work in conditions like this. Korea is the best most recent example, where the younger generation are firmly building a knowledge economy on the back of the education that their parent's factory work paid for. [citation coming if I can be bothered digging it out]

    You can see a pattern of modern manufacturers chasing cheap labour moving around the globe, building factories and industrial knowledge and infrastructure, then moving on as the local workforce becomes more knowledgeable and expensive. It does leave behind a country that is industrialised and capable of building a manufacturing base that doesn't rely on cheap labour and has better working conditions.

    If we insisted that all labour in developing countries was paid the same wage as the average US or European worker, and had similar working conditions, healthcare, life expectancy, educational prospects, and so on, then no developing country could afford to develop. We would be stuck with a developed world that had all the money and an undeveloped world that could never compete or take part in the global economy, wedged forever in a poverty trap that they couldn't get out of.

    So yes, bizarrely, it's a good thing that Chinese workers are working under horrific working conditions, just like our great-great-grandparents were, so that they can bring up kids like us who won't have to.

    • by Bucc5062 (856482)

      There are a couple of hole in your nice, pat theory. First, those western countries reformed their work environments from within, because at the time manufacturing was mainly a local or region endeavor. In the US, in the 30's, labor finally organized to begin to reform working environments *with the support of the government*. In essence, it was a free and fairly democratic society that provided the means for the worker to stand up and demand rights.

      Manufacturers are not chasing cheap labor, they are in

  • by vladilinsky (1071536) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:17AM (#38864897)
    Boycotting apple is a good idea, yes everyone is using the same factories but it is unrealistic to boycott everyone at the same time. So why not pick the bully in the group and lay him out? Apple is used by people who claim to care, so force apple to care. Then once they are forced into it, move the next company down the line. I bet it would not take long and no one would be using the appealing worker conditions.

    just my thoughts on the situation - Vlad
  • Too simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ChaoticCoyote (195677) on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:35AM (#38865143) Homepage

    Like most protest movements, anti-Apple activism is likely unproductive and too focused.

    HP, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle... do you really think all the other tech companies are innocent in such matters? Given that the problem extends beyond the tech sector -- are you willing to boycott your refrigerator, or your car, or your shirt? Picking on Apple is targeting an easy mark, one that probably has more to do with disliking Apple's image than it does with any real desire to help people.

    I don't own or buy Apple products for a lot of reasons. Their use of asian semi-slave factories will not be solved by a boycott, simply because most people don't give a rat's rump. Consumers want their cheap toys, and the "don't give a shitters" outnumber indignant Slashdotters by hundreds of thousands to one.

    If you feel that boycotting Apple is some sort of stand against naughtiness, knock yourself out. Delude yourself that buying an Android phone or a Samsung computer makes you holier the Jobs' army..

    However, if you want to make a difference, get involved in the political process, as people did with SOPA/PIPA. Make a stink on the broader issue of companies selling product created by near-slave labor in dangerous facilities.Anything less is playing at activism, as if it were a shiney toy, puffing your ego because "I'm doign something" that costs you little and helps the problem even less.

  • Wow, you Apple fanatics sure know how to circle the wagons!

    The "But every other tech company does it!" defense doesn't resonate particularly well coming from a company whose corporate slogan tells us to "Think different".

    If Apple doesn't want to be relegated to "just another tech gadget company" status, perhaps they should seize this opportunity to take the lead in reforming the tech manufacturing industry.

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