While watching Bucknell Forum version of Daisey’s The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, I was skeptical about the claims made by Steve Jobs of improving working conditions. He said that they have sent auditors to do checks on companies like Foxconn and pushed to improve the conditions there. But for some reason every time Mike Daisey’s claims were disproved, I still placed my trust with him compared to evidence shown negating his accusations. I decided to do a google search about the improvement of working conditions for Apple and there were many perspectives on it. The two articles I searched comes from Reuters, Apple, Foxconn revamp China work conditions (Gupta & Chan, 2012), and The Guardian, Apple under fire again for working conditions at Chinese factories (France-Presse, 2014).
In 2012, a partnership between Apple and Foxconn was formed to revamp the working conditions, like tackling wages and working conditions violations. The first image you see is CEO Tim Cook in an iPhone production line at a new built Foxconn factory, which Apple has finally starting to put a face to addressing the problem. With these two major players in this sector, they are starting to set a bar to drive change. Plans are in place like new dormitories and better compensation for less hours per week including overtime. This partnership does make me feel hopeful about Apple’s next step in improving the overall conditions because they are starting to recognize the suffering they have done to Foxconn workers and families. I think Tim Cook showing up at the factories and tackling the problems head on can foster an environment of a more open, transparent era at Apple compared to Steve Jobs.
But two years later in 2014, an article came out about Apple being accused again for their working conditions at these factories like Foxconn. This made me doubtful once about Apple’s motives and feel betrayed by them. To me it seems like Apple did all that to cover themselves for a few years and hope no one would find out about their lack of initiative. Instead there are still multiple working conditions violations like the long-hours and lack of health care. I find it interesting to see that “Apple told the BBC: ‘We are aware of no other company as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions’” (France-Presse). This claim Apple made me wonder, “How can they make this claim they are one only company ensuring fair working conditions, when their working conditions seems to have not have changed from two years ago when the agreement was made?” I think Apple thought the agreement alone was enough to get manufacturers to change their policies, but instead they find loopholes and ways to defy the agreement. Did Apple not send representatives any more to check up on the factories? And with further investigation BCC found that “tin from illegal mines in Indonesia where children work in dangerous conditions could be entering Apple’s supple chain” (France-Presse). So how much can we trust our firms, like Apple, in what they are claiming? Was Apple’s agreement just for publicity?
It is upsetting to see how willing companies go to earn or save a few extra bucks. The video above in France-Presse’s (2014) article shows exhausted workers and harsh treatment in the factories. The video shows Pegatron, factory like Foxconn who produces iPhones and iPads, would break the agreements set between Apple and them and take away any of the workers’ rights. It amazes me how much Apple has played an influence in shaping our world and the way we think. In a way, they have tapped into our unconscious mind to dispel our thoughts of the bad working conditions and championed themselves as the “perfect enterprise.” Apple used its knowledge and products to build strong brand communities in our society, where fewer people would question their actions and more people being satisfied by the social benefits its provides them.
So is it Foxconn and companies like them who is not carrying their end of the agreement or does the weight fall on both parties?
And how much do you think Apple has done to improve the working conditions? Is it enough or not enough?
Where do you stand? And how big of a role do you think Apple plays in either encouraging and/or challenging these working conditions?