Can Apple Fall From The Tree?


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.

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6 thoughts on “Can Apple Fall From The Tree?

  1. I agree with your point about making people aware of how harsh the conditions for the Apple employees are and how it would be a tough task to change peoples minds to not use Apple products. I think it is a challenge because China and the whole process of how Apple products are made is very removed. If Apple built their products locally in the U.S the problem would be easier to change because everyone would be able to see what was going on. I think a solution would be for Apple to spend more money and provide their employees with benefits, while this might risk a huge decrease in their savings, in the long-run it might save them so Apple can be a long lasting company.

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  2. Will, great post. In regards to your last paragraph I had the same dilemma. I honestly think in order for Apple to make a difference they should save money and use it to improve the working conditions and then to promote how they helped. That way everyone would know that they helped their workers and would potentially expose other companies who work under bad conditions. This is based somewhat on the ideas from Milton’s article that we read in class that the intention to help is only to make more money. It could potentially work.

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  3. Indeed, it is a hard road to hoe when trying to stand up for the injustices of the modern economic world while trying to live one’s own life to the fullest. For example, one solution you offered was to essentially boycott the purchase of any new products for force about the change that is needed. If Apple were a smaller organization, I think that might work; unfortunately, I feel that Apple is like the new Exxon Mobile and the new iPhone/pod/pads are the gasoline that drives us. It’s too big to care and to crucial for us to stop using. We, as a society, can no longer function as we once did without this technology. Every class requires a personal computer, every hospital asks for your cell phone contact, it’s in our culture now. To stop buying Apple would be to stop blood from flowing in an artery. So I agree with you that change is needed in that way, I just think that it may be too late for it.

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  4. I like the honesty. As someone who is pretty new here at Bucknell (transfer student), and who doesn’t own a single apple product, the immense number of them on campus is pretty stark to me (I feel like there are about 10 PCs and my brother and I own 2 of them). It’d be interesting to dig into why that is the case.

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  5. Great post, Will. Totally in agreement when it comes to the overall dilemma. There’s a huge problem when it comes to boycotting Apple products as a way of making them a more ethical corporation. The problem lies in the economics of their competitive market. Boycotting Apple products means most likely replacing those products with Samsung or the like. What makes us think that their manufacturing processes are any different. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Foxconn has a separate factory for Samsung products.

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  6. Tough dilemma, Will. I don’t think that Boycotting is necessarily the best option. Let’s be realistic Apple products are pretty cool and with Apple’s current image people would not participate. However, we have seen in the 1990s how an article in Life forced Adidas to make serious changes in their labor force when accused of child labor. You were right in that blogs such as these are key; the more people talk about the problem, the more likely it is that somebody is going to dig until evidence after evidence comes up and is published. It’s just a matter of time and sharing that more incriminating evidence will be found and will threaten the brand of Apple. If anything, Apple cares about their brand image more than anything, so they would make changes right away.

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