Whether we like to admit it or not, everyone likes to be the person with the latest technology – the one who owns the newest gadget that everyone is asking to see. When my friend bought the newly released iPhone 6, I remember getting really excited and asking to see it, holding it fragilely as if it were a rare gem. I started asking about the different functions that make it different from the previous generation of iPhone 5’s while I quickly began calculating in my head when it would be possible for me to get my hands on one. But when has anyone ever asked about the origination and manufacturing of a gadget when they were first introduced to it? I don’t think I ever have. When did I even start to like Apple products? Or is my attraction to Apple products the result of very strategic marketing techniques?
A question that Mike Daisey posed during the podcast was “Do you think Apple doesn’t know? Do they just do what we do – do they just see what they want to see?” and I think this is a question that is relatable on a lot of fronts. It is easier to just see what we want to see and avoid the unpleasant realities that we do not want to change because it is beneficial to us. Do I believe that Apple doesn’t know about the conditions at Foxconn? I don’t, but I do think that it was easier for them to turn a blind eye to the horrid conditions of factories because it was the most profitable route. I think it is appalling that employees are being forced to work until they are no longer physically capable of using their hands and are then dispensed with as the factory hires new workers. Since when have people become dispensable? Apple has since started auditing its suppliers, but what measures are they taking to enforce their labor policies if only 32% of their audited suppliers are complying?
Whenever I think of sweatshops, I think of Nike’s sweatshop scandal and of how influential the media and the public was in pushing the company to revamp their image and holding themselves accountable for abusive labor practices. The conditions at Foxxconn – overworked employees, harsh working and living conditions, underaged workers – wouldn’t be tolerated in the United States, so why are companies willing to engage in and support suppliers who indulge in exploiting their employees? When will conditions be bad enough that someone – individuals, companies, the government – intervenes?