Posted by: kevinfortruth | August 13, 2012

Americans almost die while awaiting new Apple products, while Chinese workers are dying making them.


Ah, we all just love our American companies – even if their products are no longer made in the United States – and Apple is at the top of the list of American companies that make products we love.

To go into why Apple’s products are not made here would be fodder for another much larger blog – so, let’s skip that topic.

Instead, let’s talk about how Apple doesn’t exercise sufficient control in providing safe workplaces or paying fair wages or reducing workplace suicides or minimizing deadly accidents. Apple could also do more to correct unsafe working conditions, eliminate child labor and what some consider “slave” labor and stop forced overtime and even “unpaid” overtime.

Don’t get me wrong, Apple has great products and I do not anticipate their “think tank” slowing down anytime soon but Apple needs to make changes – big changes – and soon.

I believe that Apple’s obsession with their bottom line has seen them turn the other cheek, turn a blind eye, and simply take a position of “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” regarding working conditions in foreign countries where their products are manufactured or assembled.

As far as the last “evil” – no company will speak ill of itself but I am sure Apple has heard about the ills occurring where their products are being manufactured outside the U. S. – in this case, China.

Apple can try to say that it has “heard or seen no evil” but that would be, at best, an incorrect statement, if not an outright lie because I do not work for Apple yet I have read dozens of articles all over the Internet about suicides, pay problems, unsafe working conditions, underage workers, and forced labor – including mandatory overtime.

Even after bits and pieces hit the news about all of the above, Americans are still racing to the store to buy Xbox’s and iPhones.

Has America lost its moral compass?

People to the “Right” in America appear to be very concerned with the abortion issue along with the need to make sure that “Same Sex” marriage is not allowed, but no one seems to give a hell regarding conditions in factories in China where Apple products are being manufactured that:

  1. Have serious, if not deadly, environmental issues.
  2. Employ underage (child) labor.
  3. Underpay workers.
  4. Force workers to work mandatory overtime.
  5. Have an uptick of suicides and mass suicides.
  6. Have unsafe working conditions.

So, when do human rights issues rise to a level where Americans give a damn?

We are okay sending in our troops to bomb Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and other countries when we think we are forcing regime change to better the lives of the citizens in those countries – even if it means killing thousands of women, children, and the elderly in those countries so they can be free.  So, why aren’t we concerned with what is going on in China?

Back to Apple – the company that makes those beautiful, wonderful, high tech products that we stand in long lines to purchase – even while people who look different from us are committing suicide in the plants that make these shiny products.

What would happen if Apple or its contractor had manufacturing facilities in, let’s say, San Antonio, Texas and the factory had a rash of suicides or plant explosions or workers were being forced to work mandatory overtime in an almost sweatshop environment?

What would happen if these same workers were forced to live in substandard dormitories next door to the factory and they were force marched to work in the factory by guards?

What would happen if this fictitious factory in San Antonio was illegally dumping chemicals in the river and it polluted the beautiful San Antonio Riverwalk – and tourism came to a screeching halt with restaurants boarded up and the Riverwalk hotels had significantly fewer or no guests?  Could you imagine the Alamo without tourists?

I will tell you what would happen – the Governor of Texas would get involved and so would the Mayor of San Antonio and the San Antonio City Council.  In addition, two U. S. Senators from Texas and a handful of U. S. Representatives would also be up in arms.  Why?  Because it would affect tourism, and the economy of South Texas.

On the other hand, considering that San Antonio is more than fifty percent Hispanic and the factory workers were mostly Hispanic, many in America would simply, “Yawn” and say, “Oh, well, they could have found other jobs in the service sector – they didn’t have to work for Apple – or they put themselves in harm’s way so if they ended up committing suicide it was their own fault.

Speaking of suicide, Apple’s contractor, Foxconn Technology, and China have figured out how to reduce or eliminate suicides in factories making Apple products – they now make all workers sign an agreement NOT to commit suicide.  WOW, why didn’t I think of that.

So, why don’t we make all the kids in the U.S. who are being bullied sign agreements with their parents and their schools  promising not to commit suicide?

How about Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who committed suicide?  If we only knew we could have made him sign a non-suicide agreement with Rutgers.

How about the dozens of kids last year that hung themselves in their closets or in their garages?

Maybe China’s solution should be submitted for consideration for a Nobel Prize.

Again, back to worker issues in China.  I guess everyone is more than aware why Apple went to China to have its’ products made there.

  1. Cheap labor – no need to worry about American workers wanting a fair amount of pay – plus with a captive workforce in China you can shortchange them on payday – simply pay them less and cheat them out of overtime.
  2. Forced labor – no turnover like in America where workers quit if they do not like their work, plus they have armed security guards to force march them from their substandard housing to the factory.
  3. No need to worry about safety – Leave that to the contractor to worry about and if accidents or deaths occur, Apple can say, “I see nothing.” (Hogan’s Heroes).
  4. Suicides are not Apple’s problem – the contractor takes all the heat.  Workers are worked to exhaustion – excessive work and mandatory overtime, so they eventually kill themselves to get away.
  5. Environmental Issues – if Apple dumped environmental waste in U.S. rivers, they would be fined, so they go overseas and screw up foreign rivers – which makes them a poor Global citizen while maximizing profits.

I know many of you are shocked to hear most of this and some of you believe I am blowing smoke and I do not know what I am talking about.

Here are a few links so you can read up on Apple and its main contractor and the work environment in China and how all this hurts or kills Chinese workers just so Americans can get their shiny, slick, cute, Apple products.

I know you could do your own research and counter than Apple is doing the same thing that a bunch of American companies are doing in China – and that would be correct to a degree and that is my point.

Just because everyone is doing it does not make it correct.

We have lots of American companies doing the wrong thing overseas and that is because their respective Boards of Directors share their underhanded tactics with each other.  While having lunch or dinner in five-star restaurants in big cities across the U.S., they compare notes on how to maximize profits while minimizing manufacturing costs – even when it means having unsafe or even deadly working conditions.

Our U. S. government closes sweatshops whenever they find them in the U.S., so companies like Apple move manufacturing overseas to take advantage of the sweatshop concept in its purest form.

These (un)American “American” companies are shortchanging American workers and the U.S. economy by moving all their manufacturing overseas.  Sure, I agree that they should have “some” manufacturing overseas because they sell products overseas, but for God’s sake Apple, make some of your products here in our country.

By making some of your products here our middle class might return to prosperity, our home foreclosure rate might decrease, our unemployment rate might go down and our tax revenues might increase – so we can again hire teachers, firemen, police, librarians and other critical workers that are being laid off at an alarming rate.

So, here are some links – links from reputable sources like the New York Times, ABC News to back up what I am blogging about:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/business/ieconomy-apples-ipad-and-the-human-costs-for-workers-in-china.html?pagewanted=all

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/apple-foxconn-production-lines-china-fair-labor-association/story?id=16006516

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/whos-really-to-blame-for-apples-chinese-labor-problems/253892/

http://www.slashgear.com/apple-ipad-2-factory-explosion-caused-by-aluminum-dust-again-20203591/

In my opinion, Apple can have written agreements with Foxconn, their main contractor and even with China, but it is still Apple’s moral responsibility to insure that the workplace is safe for workers.  I believe these workers need to be adequately paid and the facilities be designed and managed to not damage or destroy the environment.  Lastly,  workers should not being bullied, abused, treated as slave labor or be forced to live in substandard dormitories.

I am aware that Apple is in China to make its products as cheaply as possible but they are also there to be a good corporate citizen and be fair to workers who cannot speak for themselves.  Apple has an obligation to its shareholders and its customers to make their products ethically.

Below is a list of new products I think Apple could design and manufacture in honor of their abused and violated Chinese workers.

  1.  iSlave – a combination phone and netbook that will have photos and biographies of all Chinese workers who were forced to work mandatory overtime, force marched to the factory, and who have been shortchanged on paydays.  Anyone owning an iSlave who is feeling sorry for himself for any reason, can hit the F1 key to see a bio on a variety of Chinese workers who are paid 90 percent less than you, live in crappy mandatory housing and have production quotas most Americans could not even imagine.
  2. iKid – a handheld game machine where U.S. kids can play a variety of creative games and when you attain a new high score, the iKid will display photos of underage barefoot Chinese workers who make your iKid – who seldom have any time to themselves because they are usually working mandatory unpaid overtime due to the high demand for Apple products – after all, Apple just had one of its most profitable quarters with over $46 billion in sales and over $13 billion in profits. The audacity of these Chinese laborers not working harder and longer so Apple could sell more units and make even more profits. The irony is  that while these underage kids are making Apple products for other kids throughout the world yet they do not have the time to play them themselves – nor do they have any money to even buy one because they are cheated out of overtime pay.
  3. iSuicide – another new product that pits a player against the iSuicide where the player has to kill his virtual opponent or has to commit “virtual” suicide to finish the game.  If suicide is chosen, a pop-up displays an actual Chinese worker who committed suicide – showing in detail how the specific worker took his/her own life.  There is a Help button that will display a variety of methods of how to expedite his own virtual demise.  You will also have the option of calling up a PayPal screen so you can donate a dollar to the family of the Chinese person who died in the factory where the iSuicide was manufactured.  If you are really lucky, this worker might have autographed your machine before his/her death, which will make your game even more valuable if you decide to sell it on eBay.
  4. iUnsafe – another great game where players are pitted against the machine in a virtual sweatshop manufacturing environment that is unsafe.  If you do not attain a certain score, your iUnsafe will burst into flames just like two Apple factories that had fires and a third factory that had a major explosion.  Your iUnsafe is rendered useless after it ignites itself – which makes you go to your local Apple store to buy another iUnsafe, which would make Apple very happy.

A Disclaimer:  These Chinese factories that make Apple products are not owned or operated by Apple.  They are owned and managed by one of Apple’s major contractors in China.

If you are having a new home built, you will probably have a general contractor – and this contractor will have a bunch of sub-contractors who do complete portions of the job.  If one of them uses faulty equipment and your in-progress house catches fire and burns down, would it be fair for the General Contractor to wash his hands of the fire and tell you, “tough luck?”  Surely not.  More importantly, would you let a general contractor or a sub-contractor get away with burning down your home?

A good part of Apple’s profits are because they use contractors who decide to do questionable, maybe unethical things to minimize production costs – yet Apple does not appear to be passing those savings on to those purchasing their shiny products.  Everything Apple makes costs consumers much more than products made from Apple’s competitors.  My guess is that Apple is relatively okay with how Foxconn performs as a subcontractor as long as it doesn’t draw public ire and the negative publicity is kept out of the mainstream media.

At the beginning of this blog I asked if America has lost its moral compass.  I believe it has, but worse yet, I feel that Apple, as a corporation, has also lost its moral compass as well.

Maybe Apple should pack up its headquarters and move to China and take its entire think tank group with them – that way Americans will not be torn between loving Apple products because these products are “American” while hating them for their questionable business practices and manufacturing procedures that are killing and maiming innocent Chinese workers.

What is so sad about this whole situation is that I believe Apple’s primary concern is about profits – their position is that if improvements are made in China to fix what is wrong, it will force Apple to raise the prices on products – products that are already the highest priced products in the industry.

Maybe, just maybe, Apple could take just a smidgen of its profits and improve things in China – Does Apple really need to make a net profit of $16 billion each quarter?

I think if they took just 2 percent of their profits ($320 million) to pay the Chinese workers a living wage while improving the working conditions and lowering the production quotas just a tad, Chinese workers would not consider suicide and maybe, just maybe they could go home to their families just like we do every night and enjoy their Apple products they purchased with their overtime pay and their employee discount.

Until Apple spends more time, resources, and energy into being more ethical and humane in the manufacturing of its products as it does in the design of these products, Apple will continue to be the problem – and what is really wrong with America.

Until Apple does what is necessary to clean up its corporate image, I, for one, will not buy any Apple products made in China.

To me, Apple products are the Asian equivilant to Africa’s blood diamonds – nothing less, nothing more.

I also feel that endowments and pension funds should divest their Apple stock until Apple cleans up its act in China.

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