When is it enough?


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?

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4 thoughts on “When is it enough?

  1. You raise a great point about the dispensability of individuals, especially related to the employees of Foxconn and the working conditions they have to endure on a daily basis. I agree that individuals, companies, and other third-party entities should get involved to change the working conditions, but without the persistence to change Foxconn’s workplace environment, nothing will be accomplished. At the end of the podcast, it was mentioned that the wages at Foxconn were comparable to the Chinese standard minimum wage. Though not an income suitable for many, it is a job nonetheless. We come from such a biased perspective of work and occupations in the United States, but what if thats the expectation for low-wage jobs in Shenzhen? Yes, the environment is toxic and unsuitable for an individuals, but they at least have a bed, a meal, and a job every day. What would be their alternative? What if that is the only job they can find? (Just something to think about)

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    1. I think that’s a good point and it’s true that yes, that might be the expectations set for low-wage jobs in Shenzhen, but I don’t think having a bed, a meal, and a job every day is sufficient enough if the conditions are so bad. It might be acceptable in the short-term, but it’s definitely not something that would be tolerated in the US, atleast not to my knowledge. I do think that in most cases these sweatshop factories are the only jobs that people can find and I think it’s a systematic change that needs to happen in order to improve conditions for all workers.

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  2. I like your last point regarding your thoughts on Nike and the media. I hadn’t thought about this before, but it amazes how in this day and age, the media hasn’t been exposing this issue on a large scale and sending it through the monitors in every home around the world. Media is everywhere these days, and it reports on some important topics and some not-so-important topics. But the abuse of workers, funded by some of the biggest and most well-known and well-liked companies we know of, barely makes a dent in our media. So, in the end, it makes me wonder, what drastic measure will be taken to push this problem to the forefront?

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  3. I agree – the media is supposedly there to inform the public on any and all issues around the world, but it’s also worth it to consider what the media isn’t telling us as well, especially since the media is so often reliant on big companies to pay them to air ads, etc. I’m not sure what will be drastic enough to push the problem to the center of attention when it is an issue that everyone is somewhat aware of, but I’m interested in also seeing who will ultimately step up to make it their responsibility whether its the government or a corporation.

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