“Do you really think that Apple doesn’t’ know?”

“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.

5 thoughts on ““Do you really think that Apple doesn’t’ know?””

  1. While I think society would benefit as a whole if we had complete disclosure on the manufacturing process of our products, what would be the cost of obtaining that information? And if private labor rights organizations push Apple to change their ways, the streamlined production process that gets us our Apple products so quickly will now take much longer. I’m not advocating for Foxconn by any means, but we have to realize the tradeoffs that would exist if reforms on worker hours, wages, and conditions were made.


    1. That is a very interesting point. What would happen if we showed both of these types of information? On one side showing the transparency and problems of the supply chain and on the other showing the impacts it would have such as price increases and slower delivery times? Would these tradeoffs change people’s minds?


  2. I’d be the first to admit I’m naive when it comes to what I consume and the products I buy, and I think many of us choose to be this way because of this next question: how many successful companies do you think exist that truly have no flaws in their supply chain, no areas where they are lacking in equality, and a perfect record with stakeholders? While more transparency may be the key to change, it also frightens me. Just as I became defeated and somewhat disdainful of my Apple products after this podcast, I wonder if I would be repelled by all major products I own if I truly knew where they all came from, under what conditioned they were manufactured, etc. Hopefully not, but who knows?


  3. “Do you really think that Apple Doesn’t Know” Daisey was able to deliver this question and then pause, and continue to pause, and continue to remain silent as listeners begged him to start talking, begged him to talk about something else so that we didn’t have to exist in his uncomfortable silence with our own thoughts at the notion of how silly and naive we must be to think that Apple doesn’t know about what is occurring. This is not the 90s, and this is not Nike. Maybe a sneaker company might not have known about conditions in their plants in the pre-internet boom, but in this day and age to believe that a tech company that knows everything doesn’t know this??? We can think whatever allows us to sleep at night I suppose.


  4. What are Apple’s obligations, or Foxconn’s, to aggressively inform consumers about where their products come from? Is it part of the Apple design that you can’t see “the seams and screw holes”?


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