How much can we trust Apple?


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?

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4 thoughts on “How much can we trust Apple?”

  1. I definitely don’t think that Foxconn is the only party that is carrying the weight of changing the labor conditions within their facilities. In my opinion, as the tech giant, Apple should shoulder most of the weight. They should exert their power on factories like Foxconn, and make the labor laws more strict and suitable for the Chinese workers. Apple has a lot of power in the world of business, so I think if they really wanted to change the way how things are, they can. The real question here is: do they want to?

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  2. You talk about how Apple will essentially cut corners to make a few extra bucks. In reality, they are saving tons of money by exploiting foreign working conditions. Apple does not need to improve working conditions. They’ve already embedded their culture upon society. As long as they make it seem like they are improving conditions and it continues to be legal in China, then they will continue what they are doing.

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  3. Aylin, you make a good point that “tech giant, Apple should shoulder most of the weight. They should exert their power on factories like Foxconn, and make the labor laws more strict and suitable for the Chinese workers” and I agree with it.

    As of right now I do not think Apple wants to actually do this because they are benefiting from this relationship. I think for Apple to actually start assuming responsibility is to find a way to get their consumers invested in the issues as well. This might be a bit extreme, but it could be consumers not buying and/or using their products/services anymore to show Apple that there really is a need to address these issues head-on. There needs to be different measures in place because their past agreement with Foxconn was not successful, so Apple also should exert their power in a creative way in addressing the labor conditions.

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  4. Apple is a company that is all about the shareholders. This has been reflected in the share price outperforming the market and have to be divided in a 7:1 split to keep the price from being so high the average person has to seriously consider the cost of buying a single share. They have come out and said they are improving working conditions, but only so to please shareholders. The reality is that Foxconn brings Apple profits more quickly and cheaply than an American factory can, so they do not really care how it gets done.

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