Header Picture

Header Picture

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I'll Buy Me One of Those iPhones, As Long As You Don't Mention the Icky People Who Made It For Me

That darling of the 99%, Apple Inc., posted some amazing end-of-year results yesterday.
  • 73.3% revenue increase over last year totaling $46.33 billion
  • 118% increase in net income over last year totaling $13.06 billion 

Occupy Wall Street protester captures the action on his iPad
last Fall. By the way, remember the kid in the center of the
picture? He's a Columbia grad with a trust fund.

Everyone loves Apple and the deified Steve Jobs. Apple is the very model of a successful, modern corporation, and Occupying things would be ever so hard without iPhones, iPads, and iPods. Plus, their stuff is just so...cool!

I am thinking that Lai Xiaodong's family's love of Apple and Foxconn, a major manufacturer for Apple, is probably not as deep as your's is.

Xiaodong was a 22 year-old worker at Foxconn whose job it was to polish the aluminum backs of iPads. He died two days after suffering burns over 90% of his body and the loss of most of his face in an explosion in Foxconn's Chengdu factory in May of 2011.

Several days after Xiaodong died, factory works drove to his family's village to deliever his ashes. A few days later, the company sent a check for approximately $150,000 to the family. Prior to his death, Xiaodong's salary was $22 a day.

Safety standards in Chinese factories are low to non-existent, but then again, the savings on safety concerns -- and worker salaries -- gets passed on to American consumers (and consumers around the world), and after all, Chinese people are trying to take over America, and well, they live in China for Pete's sake. 

Lest you think I'm picking solely on Apple, I'm not. I own Apple products. Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Lenovo, and Toshiba are also on an extensive list of other companies whose factories have their workers toil in horrendous working conditions. Some of these conditions include seven day work weeks, workers being forced to stand without rest until their legs are too swollen to move, safety concerns such as exposure to toxic chemicals and the dust build-up at the Foxconn factory that killed Lai Xiaodong and three others and injured eighteen.

I'm not mounting some holier-than-thou soapbox here and admonishing you to throw away all of your Chinese-made products. The money has been spent and the damage has been done and we can't retroactively change that. But consider this: Americans would never buy products from US companies that forced their workers to labor under these conditions in America. But somehow its okay for American companies to sub-contract foreign companies that treat foreign workers on foreign soil like slaves? We all like our cheap electronics, and that's why US consumer goods manufacturing doesn't exist anymore.

Our current economic climate is tough, but you'll never convince me you're suffering if you own an Apple product, so don't even bother trying. We, as consumers, are also responsible for the treatment of Chinese and other foreign laborers, because we are an intrinsic connection in the wheel of economic-slave labor.

I'm not urging you to put down your iPod (although you would enjoy music a whole lot better if you listened to it as it was intended to be listened to) and I am not asking you turn off your Toshiba flat screen TV.

But maybe it's time we stop blindly worshipping companies because they are cool and have hip marketing campaigns. Maybe we should stop being lemmings who crave things just because other people have them without any concern for the people who built them for us. Maybe the next time we buy a product we should be responsible people and find out just exactly what it is we are buying.

We cannot be a freedom loving people if we pursue life, liberty and happiness on the backs of others. This is what you've all been complaining about. Right?

Increasing our standard of living at the expense of slave and indentured labor was repugnant 200 years ago, and just because we've forced the economic-slave labor force out of sight doesn't make it any less repugnant now.

The statistics and details for this column came from NY Times Business Day January 25, 2012 and The Atlantic Wire January 26, 2012.

No comments: