Hearing some of the things in this podcast, entitled “Mr. Daisey and Apple,” was admittedly a bit unsettling. The world, but America in particular, seems to be so obsessed with Apple; products from the company are a symbol of status, of trendiness and style. Yet often unknown and rarely associated with these incredible technological products is the harsh conditions under which they are produced. This, really, is not just an issue for Apple, but a frequent critique of globalization in general—that it is damaging to domestic workers and often results in jobs being shipped oversees to sweatshops and other brutal labor standards and conditions. As the podcast notes, we are exporting jobs but not many of the labor protections for which Americans fought for so long to achieve with them. Although many Apple customers may not be fully aware of what goes into their products being made and assembled, the real issue in my mind lies with the Apple as an organization. They simply must be aware of these incredibly demanding and physically harmful working conditions, and they must be proactive about ameliorating these pressing issues.
This podcast provided insight into many of the treacherous conditions to which workers in China, specifically those at a Foxconn plant in Shenzchen, are exposed. Not only are the hours outrageously long, but workers are often teenagers, some as young as 11 or 12. In the twenty first century, in a time where I am confident we can all universally agree it is immoral to employ children this young—especially under these sorts of deplorable working conditions—it is a shame than one of the nation’s largest and most recognizable companies permits this sort of behavior. It is an excellent example of what seem to be the perils of capitalism; anything is done to cut costs and make a larger profit. Throughout the podcast, the various examples of harm to workers were extensive and gruesome. In some cases, workers had lost the full functioning abilities in their hands due to frequent and prolonged exposure to neurotoxins in chemicals needed to assemble Apple products. I love my iPhone and all that it provides for me, but it is worrisome to know that all of the joy this device gives me may have cost another person his or her lifelong well being.
I question what Daisy’s main objective was in doing this sort of investigation. Was he trying to humiliate Apple? Encourage them do fix these wrong behaviors? Or, possibly, was he trying to disparage the Apple consumer and suggest that anyone using an Apple product should stop doing so? My main concern after viewing this podcast is in assessing how bad I should feel about listening to this podcast on my MacBook while texting on my iPhone. The reality is that I and many other people use Apple products and do not in any way condone the use of child labor or any of the despicable working conditions and treatment of workers described in the podcast. If I were to stop using Apple products altogether simply because I am knowledgeable about the ways its products are made, I do not think that it accomplishes anything to fix the root cause of this problem. In other words, my refusal to use Apple products would do little to achieve justice for these workers. With this in mind, I believe that the main burden here rests with Apple and not the consumer. This may seem a passive approach to the problem and a way to pass the blame to another party, but I just do not believe it is true to characterize my use of Apple products as an endorsement of these horrible working conditions oversees.
So, what can be done to fix this problem and achieve justice for these workers, not only in this Foxconn factory but in so many others throughout the world? With the increased importance of globalization in recent years, it may appear as though it is too late to turn back now and sweatshops along with Chinese-made Apple products are here to stay. It is a shame that these sorts of behaviors have become the norm for many American corporations, but it often becomes a necessity to reduce costs and maintain competitiveness. The issue lies not solely with Apple, but with the very way that the current capitalist-driven global economy operates. New standards need to be created that respect the rights of workers in all countries and in all factories across the globe, regardless of how cheap the labor may be. There is a fundamental difference between shipping jobs to China for workers of legal age in respectable conditions as opposed to shipping jobs to a sweatshop that employs children at incredibly lengthy hours. Apple and other organizations engaging in similar behavior need to take a greater responsibility for these concerns instead of only “hearing what they want to hear” as noted in the podcast. You can increase profits and reduce costs while still providing a basic respect for human life.
Also, I found some info which suggests that a lot of what Daisey said in this podcast was not the truth and otherwise could not be verified: see here