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China Apple

Labor Activist: Apple May Be Terrible, But All Others Are Worse 218 218

CheerfulMacFanboy writes "Labor Activist Li Qiang wants you to know that the iPhone 4 in his pocket is not an endorsement of Apple's policies, just an acknowledgment that the company is doing a better job of monitoring factory conditions than its peers. The founder of leading advocacy group China Labor Watch (CLW) told us that, though the Cupertino company does more-thorough inspections than competitors, it is responsible for poor working conditions at its suppliers' factories and needs to invest some of its record-breaking profits in improving them. 'Although I know that the iPhone 4 is made at sweat shop factories in China, I still think that this is the only choice, because Apple is actually one of the best. Actually before I made a decision, I compared Apple with other cell phone companies, such as Nokia,' he said through a translator. 'And the conditions in those factories are worse than the ones of Apple.'"
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Labor Activist: Apple May Be Terrible, But All Others Are Worse

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  • by bonch (38532) * on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:07PM (#38973131)

    Interesting how the original headline reads "Apple Best at Auditing Factories, Still Not Doing Enough" while Slashdot's reads "Apple May Be Terrible, But All Others Are Worse". From best to terrible in the flash of a Slashdot submission.

    I don't get why Apple is always the one intimately associated with Foxconn when, as the largest electronics manufacturer in the world, Foxconn builds products for Dell, HP, Sony, Motorola, Nintendo, Microsoft, and so on. That Apple is the most proactive about labor policies isn't a surprise given the company's left-wing political leanings. You can always say someone should be doing more, but one can't help but wonder at what point it becomes the responsibility of the native government to make its citizen's lives better rather than the companies in another country sending the build orders. If Apple and other companies did what Li Qiang suggests, they'd essentially be babysitting the entire world's industrial labor, and that's just an impossible slippery slope. However, the storyline of a glossy, profitable American company using "slave labor" is just too juicy a narrative for the mainstream media to pass up.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:07PM (#38973133)

    We've become so used to the idea that ALL consumer electronics are made in sweatshops that we're down to comparing whose sweatshop is the *least* nightmarish? That's more than a little sad, no?

    Wouldn't it be nice to have just one consumer electronics manufacturer that made all their stuff in the first-world and paid their workers decent wages? It might be nice to have at least one TV, DVD player and cellphone option that I didn't have to feel guilty about. I'm getting a little sick of thinking of how many third-world people had to be exploited just so I could get a 52" LCD for $1,500 instead of $1,700. I mean saving the $200 is nice, admittedly, but not at the expense of dumping mercury into some Chinese town's river water, or working some 12-year-old for 16 hour days.

    Couldn't countries at least require that imported goods be manufactured at their own minimum wage?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:12PM (#38973199)
    The Slashdot title seems more objective to me. It does not suggest a specific action, it reports on how things are.
  • by DogDude (805747) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:22PM (#38973349) Homepage
    "Trying to police the whole world" is vastly different from making sure that you have an ethical supply chain. Hell, Americans have, in the last two decades, stopped complaining that these people, in the past, would've been direct Apple employees. Now, not only are they not employees, but they're treated like dogs. (Actually, I treat my dog better). There is no excuse for Apple and other companies to allow this kind of stuff to happen. It's not a secret, and there's plenty that they could do about it, if they wanted to.
  • by bonch (38532) * on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:22PM (#38973351)

    SACOM (Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour) visited Foxconn [pcmag.com] and said that the biggest gripe from employees was money, and they also grumbled that overtime was sometimes forced upon them. Other concerns included exposure to dust at a construction site. Employees are allowed bathroom breaks each day, though managers did encourage them to work through their breaks. You make it sound like some torture dungeon, and it's just not. It's a typical grueling Chinese factory, but it's one of the least bad.

  • by sneakyimp (1161443) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:27PM (#38973417)

    NPR did an excellent spot [thisamericanlife.org] on the foxconn factory. There are some shocking aspects to the factory conditions, but this is not slave labor. Please don't confuse slave labor with voluntary labor under horrible conditions by poor and desperate workers in China. Even liberal economists agree that these (terrible) jobs do result in improvements for the inhabitants of China. The alternative is no work -- or the rice paddy. If you are going to make assertions that people are being enslaved and tortured against their will, you have to at least back it up with some sources.

    And NO I'm not a Mac fanboy. My phone is Android. My primary desktop is Ubuntu and Windows. I do not own an iPhone or iPad.

  • by poetmatt (793785) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:27PM (#38973425) Journal

    The whole point is this:

    Saying "others are worse, focus on them" when apple serves as the standard for quality over there (if they're saying they do the best), means that if apple is doing this badly, they should be setting the example for doing better. Everyone, including the "worst" should be raising bar. Just because others may be worse is not in any way, an excuse for apple.

    How fucking hard is this to understand?

  • by dangitman (862676) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:37PM (#38973545)

    More pressure should be placed on the Chinese government, since it is ultimately their responsibility to improve the lives of their citizens.

    While it's true that the Chinese government needs to take its share of responsibility, don't the citizens of China also have responsibility in improving their lives?

    Imagine if the same were said about America. The American government should be responsible for improving the lives of citizens? In "the land of the free," shouldn't that responsibility lie in the hands of the citizens themselves, while government should just get out of the way?

    I'm pretty sure there would be an outcry about how the government shouldn't be managing people's lives.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:46PM (#38973683)

    Apple is associated because they're selling the most products and gaining the most benefits from doing so. It's easiest and has the biggest impact to list the largest and most influential company. It doesn't help that Apple shot themselves in the foot by celebrating their "Made in America" brand for so many years. From being made in the greatest of working conditions, to being made in the worst.

    As one who advocates against sweat shop labor, I find it equally deplorable of any company that uses these Chinese manufacturers to build their products. However, by list Apple, it shows just who is capable. In this case, it's the hip and trendy company with the cult like following who proclaim the dominance of Apple products. It's good to know how Apple is able to dominate the market and make such huge profits!

    It's also good to note how people are shelling out $200+ for these phones, which are manufactured completely outside of the US, while the company has raked in $100 billion to its bank account. The CEO is pulling down a $400 million pay year for his first year on the job as CEO. I think I read it cost about $100 to manufacture one of these phones, so that's money donated directly to China. I assume most of that goes to raw supplies and management, while the workers are making $1 an hour and living in crap conditions. This is the item of the future. The process of building and selling it is taking money from the hands of the many, and giving the majority of that money to the hands of the few.

  • by DogDude (805747) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:46PM (#38973693) Homepage
    Imagine if the same were said about America. The American government should be responsible for improving the lives of citizens? In "the land of the free," shouldn't that responsibility lie in the hands of the citizens themselves, while government should just get out of the way?

    Yeah, land of the free, blah blah blah. The world is not a magical Ayn Randian fantasy land. People and companies CANNOT be trusted to act ethically, which is why we have basic labor laws. I know it's over used, but Somalia is a great example of the government "getting out of the way".
  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @07:03PM (#38973973)
    I'm not convinced.

    "Apple Best at Auditing Factories, Still Not Doing Enough" - I interpret that to mean that Apple should lift its game and improve, not act like it's blameless.

    "Apple May Be Terrible, But All Others Are Worse" - I interpret that to mean leave Apple alone and blame other companies first.

  • by Sancho (17056) * on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @07:13PM (#38974135) Homepage

    China takes the opposite approach--criminalizing workers forming or joining a union.

    But as DogDude says, absent regulation, companies and people don't tend to act ethically. Hell, nearly every regulation on the books is the result of a real problem. Look at labor in the industrial revolution. That's how companies act when there is no regulation.

  • by Kohath (38547) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @07:24PM (#38974295)

    Slashdot is becoming pretty cartoonish.

    Becoming? The sad thing is that Slashdot's increasing cartoonishness seems to be a reflection of a large subset of the readers.

    The idea seems to be that Apple is cheating all those workers out of the perfect utopian lives they'd have if only Apple loved them.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @07:29PM (#38974345) Homepage Journal

    Here's the best line from Li Qiang's statement:

    Although I know that the iPhone 4 is made at sweat shop factories in China, I still think that this is the only choice, because Apple is actually one of the best.

    So, the takeaway is that Apple runs the best sweatshops in China. The question I have, is this: Apple is now the richest and most valuable corporation in the world. If anyone is going to stand up and refuse to accept having their workers live and work in sweatshop conditions, and lead their industry to clean up its act, it ought to be them.

    There are two possibilities here: Either Apple is putting cash in Li Qiang's pocket to say these things, or his comments were translated by Siri.

    Apple was supposed to "Think Different", remember? How about all those full-page Apple ads with Ghandi, Cesar Chavez, Richard Feynman? You think those guys would feel comfortable with workers living 16 to a 12'x12' company-owned dormitory with surveillance cameras? How do you think Ghandi would feel about the working conditions at Foxconn? What do you think would happen if the next Cesar Chavez were to start talking to workers who build iPhones?

    Here was the text of one of Apple's famous ads:

    About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

    There isn't fuck-all that's "inspirational" about the human cost of Apple's treatment of its workers (and yes, that's APPLE's treatment of workers. They're the ones whose products are being made.) It does not "push the human race forward" to make inhuman treatment of workers the industry standard. Every technology company on Earth wants to be like Apple. Apple sets the gold standard, right? So how many CEOs of competing companies are thinking right now, "If we're going to be as successful as Apple, we're going to have to treat our workers even worse!"?

    As an Apple shareholder for more than 25 years, I believe that for one week, every shareholder, every board member, every officer, should have to trade places with someone who builds iPhones. I was finally completely divested last year, but I'd gladly be part of that field trip if it raised awareness of what Apple is currently doing. How they're making their money.

    Fuck Apple. And yes, fuck every other company who profits from these labor practices. But since Apple is at the front of the line, fuck them first.

  • by rjstanford (69735) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @07:49PM (#38974651) Homepage Journal

    Its also worth noting that when new Foxconn positions become available for Apple manufacturing, thousands of people appear and queue for the job opportunity. The suicide rates and overall health risks among Apple/Foxconn employees are notably better than those of local non-Apple/Foxconn employees. Apple can and should still do more, but if you treat real efforts to improve with nothing but scorn, companies will just stop making efforts to improve.

  • by Asic Eng (193332) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @08:32PM (#38975321)

    Samsung manufactures in China and in Korea, too. You can get a "Made in Korea" phone from Samsung. However given the guy is a Chinese Labor activist, he probably wants conditions to become better in China, not to move production outside of China.

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