For the majority of the American public, it is no shock to hear about Apple’s less-than-stellar labor practices in their overseas manufacturing plants. They have been issuing annual statements since 2007 describing the working conditions they have see upon audit of these manufacturers. Obviously, a company as concerned with its image as Apple is would not publish such a thing if they didn’t think it would help the brand, but the statements are far from glowing. For example, in a recent report, Apple found that 30% of audited manufacturers followed working hour regulations. Not even half. I think it is easy to read a number like that and have it go in one ear and out the other. I personally cannot comprehend what those conditions are like, and would wager that very few people in America could. This leads me to the question I was contemplating the entire time I listened to This American Life’s “Mr. Daisey and Apple”. What will it take to ignite the flame that ultimately creates change?
Cutthroat capitalism in the United States has created a society that expects low prices, but Apple doesn’t even position themselves as a low price alternative. If anything, they are one of the most expensive brand names on the market. I could go out and buy a PC with the exact same hardware specifications as the Mac I write this on for ~$500 less, but I don’t. Before I went out and purchased my Mac, I had heard of the stories surrounding the mistreatment of employees, but honestly, that thought didn’t cross my mind at any point while strolling through Best Buy. I wasn’t thinking about the 12 year olds at Foxconn in Shenzhen, the sleeping arrangements that I probably couldn’t even fit in, or the crippling nature of repetitive work. I wish that wasn’t the case, but my instincts tell me that I am not unique in either aspect- consuming in blissful ignorance, or being upset at the retrospective thought of it. The problem is, even with these feelings, I cannot definitively say I won’t go and buy the next iPhone.
I realize I do not represent the American public as a whole, but seeing as almost everyone I know has at least one Apple product, I feel safe in assuming I am not the minority. So, back to my original question- what will it take to change these (debatably) unacceptable practices? Ultimately, the answer seems simple- stop buying Apple products until they ensure the ethical treatment of anyone who works for them. Apparently that is much easier said than done. I think the most realistic way to spark the public into action is through mass media, specifically news distributors. Only so many people will see a Facebook post or blog entry, but millions of people watch/read the same news programs every day. Their goal, to make the American public empathize with people on the other side of the world who they will never see, is understandably tough. However, if they were to spend even a tenth of the time they do discussing an upcoming Apple product on Apple’s gross treatment of overseas employees, I think the public reaction would be swift and powerful enough to sway the even the notoriously stubborn Apple Inc.