We’ve all heard about the problems regarding the living conditions in these factories overseas. Mike Daisey does a great job of going deeper, though, and making these issues seem even more real for people who have never come close to seeing these factories in person. One of the bigger aspects of the podcast that stuck out to me was the frequent use of underage workers in their businesses. They have children as young as 12 years old performing basic functions on the line, and that is no problem for the executives. Foxconn never checks ages and hides those who are underage when the investigations come in from outside sources. What I think about is to what extent does Apple not know about this, and why aren’t they taking more action to fix this? Mike mentioned that Apple stopped working with one supplier who had 42 underaged workers, but Apple did very little to enforce this protocol in other factories. What surprised me most among all of this was with the 13-year old when she was being interviewed, and how naturally she said that all of her friends the same age are working with her, with nothing stopping them from doing so.
Going off of the situation in the factories such as the one that holds 430,000 works at Foxconn, what kinds of living conditions are they really living through? We’ve heard it all when learning about some of these issues and social responsibility in the past, but this puts an even more morose picture into our minds. Guards with guns surround the facility. Nets are setup in response to the many suicides. Local journalists have little faith in Mike being able to talk with anyone at the facility. These things showcase the daily life for these workers, who work 12-16 hours per day. Not only can I not imagine seeing this type of workplace in a place like my hometown, but it’s hard to see normal consumers doing very little to take action in whatever capacity they can. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how bad these factories are, and don’t feel that boycotting a company will really have any kind of effect on the big picture. They don’t want to make that change, as change creates a lack of comfort. In the end, though, that big picture says it all. There was a metaphorical part of Mike’s experience when he talks about the man with the injured hand seeing the Ipad working for the first time. With most of these machines being hand-made, this person hurt his hand on the job and received no help from the factory, and he’s never even seen a working product, a product that he had helped put together for so long. In that moment, he had forgotten some of his negative thoughts of the factory even if only for a second, as he was mesmerized by the screen, and I think that goes for consumers as well – we don’t think about negative social consequences when we are deeply engrossed by our technologies.
Lastly, I had mentioned this before, but does Apple have any responsibility for what we heard in this podcast? Although they have cut ties with some manufacturers, they still have a long way to go. Now, we can’t pretend that Apple is the only company who has been shirking on their responsibilities to maintain quality working conditions, but that doesn’t make them immune from receiving blame. They hide any problems that may be going as best as they can to try and maintain the Apple aficionados that they have built up over the past few decades. That is exactly what I thought about when Mike started discussing his love of technology – he was a true Apple aficionado, and perhaps he still is when it comes to their products, but something has certainly changed in his opinion of the company as a whole. And so this may be a common trend soon when people learn more and more about some of the negatives of Apple. Apple may have to make some drastic changes when it comes to manufacturing, whether they like it or not.