“Do you really think Apple doesn’t know?” asks amateur reporter Mike Daisy. His words hit me like a ton of bricks as I realize the implications behind his question. In a company obsessed with detail, secrecy, and control, it seems unlikely that Apple would be clueless on the matter of their supply-chain. “Do you really think in a company obsessed with detail, that it’s credible that they don’t know?” Mr. Daisy is referring to the appalling working conditions in which Apple’s manufacture, Foxconn, imposes on its Chinese employees.
I was both uneasy and sickened after listening to Chicago Public Radio’s podcast, “Mike Daisy and Apple’s Manufacturing Practices.” Of course I had heard of China’s violations of international labor standards and the horrible working conditions Chinese employees endured. But to hear first hand accounts of the abuses and unethical practices occurring in Shenzhen left me feeling shocked and guilty. In his talk Mr. Daisy discusses his trip to the “Special Economic Zone” of the southern Guangdong province, Shenzhen. This area is one of the most successful economic zones within China and where most of our technology is manufactured today. International corporations, like Foxconn, are able to take advantage of their employees because of the lack to non-existent labour rights in China and other developing nations. Mr. Daisy comments that corrupt manufacturing systems like Foxconn’s exist because countries like China desire to be modern, regardless of the consequences towards their own people. Many human rights groups place in the blame on the Chinese government, and while this may be effective in changing domestic laws, corporations are also at fault for propagating unethical practices. When children as young at 12 are working 14 to 16 hour shifts in silence,doing monotonous work with cameras everywhere, there is a problem.
It is not uncommon for Foxconn employees to work +30 hour shifts, to sleep in cramped dorms that resemble coffins, and to be dented for speaking on the factory floor. These factories hold 25,000 to 30,000 employees in one large vast space, where the only sound on the factory floor is the movement of bodies. Mr. Daisy description of the “safety nets” attached to the tall, immense buildings on Foxconn’s complex are heartbreaking. He states the nets are for suicide preventative measures during an epidemic of suicides amount workers. These nets highlight a severe social problem within our society – the greenwashing of a massive problem within international corporate culture regarding human labor. It is clear that Foxconnn cares little for its employees with stories like employees being exposed to life-damaging neurotoxins and no worker’s compensation overtime. When horrendous story even showcased a man whose hand was ruined in a metal machine. Instead of offering him worker’s compensation, Foxconn fired him after he proved too slow for the factory line after the accident.
Foxconn makes almost a third of our modern technology from phones, computers, tablets, etc. It seems unlikely that Apple is oblivious when a “dedicated amateur reporter” is able to uncover these atrocities. Self-proclaimed “worshipper of the house of Mac,” Mike Daisy states that if Apple were serious about labor standards they would name unethical suppliers in their yearly report. So how then can the average citizen help this global issue? I think being aware of the problem is the first step. It is important in today’s world to know where our products are coming from and under what conditions our products are manufactured. We can also place pressure on companies like Apple to be more transparent and honest about their supply chain. If we say as a society that these practices are socially unacceptable and intolerable, we can change the rules of the game and companies like Foxconn would be forced to change their labour practices.