There’s a possibility that people have a slight nagging in the back of their heads that all the corporations we see and interact with each day may not be as truthful as they appear. Some corporations have teams dedicated to their public image, doing nothing but damage control when necessary to maintain their various stakeholders’ opinions. But there are sometimes slip-ups, cracks in their armor, which allow us to really see what goes on within these corporations. Listening to the podcast and hearing where it was going, I braced myself to hear some negative comments about Apple. I had heard about their factories before, about their working conditions, but never to this extent. Working in a factory can be dangerous; there will always be inherent risks that cannot be alleviated. Safety precautions can be put in place, but mistakes can still be made. Personally I’d like to think that when these accidents do occur that they are handled professionally, but listening to this I found this not to be the case.
N-hexane. I’m not a chemist so I really couldn’t tell you what this cleaner is but luckily Daisey does a good job of explaining it. It’s an iPhone screen cleaner that dries faster than alcohol, allowing Foxconn to speed up production. Just like Henry Ford pioneered the moving assembly line, there’s nothing wrong with trying to specialize work to increase productivity. In this case though, it’s incredibly irresponsible for them to do so. That’s because N-hexane is a potent neurotoxin that these factory workers have been handling. As Daisey states, the effects of this neurotoxin causes “…carpal tunnel on a scale we can scarcely imagine.” He goes on to say that its eminently avoidable if these people were rotated monthly on their jobs, but that would require Foxconn to care. While I’m sure there are other corporations using dubious practices, Apple has stated that they take the safety of their workers quite seriously. Looking through my fellow classmates’ blog posts, I can see I’m not the only one unsure of how to feel about typing this on my MacBook. Am I supposed to boycott Apple because of these practices, or is there nothing that I can really do?
I think that this podcast brings to light facts about corporations, Apple in this case but it applies to others, that we rarely think about who is producing our goods. When people queue up for the next big Apple release they probably aren’t thinking about all the hours that workers put in to allow them to wait in line for an absurd amount of time for a new gadget. Some people think the idea of social responsibility as something that corporations think of each day, and arguably some do. But the question arises regarding how we as a consumer choose to react to those corporations that let some safety standards slide in order to boost their margins. What can we really do that will make them change their ways? While we cannot be sure all the facts about what Daisey says, this podcast certainly provides food for thought for the consumer.
Here’s a link to a discussion on the redaction of this story by This American Life.