Buy Apple, Support Slavery
By LUIS R. MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | MARCH 30, 2012
Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the past decade or so, it may come as a surprise to learn that large technology corporations such as Apple use and abuse workers in third world nations where governments do not provide any protection for their labor force. A new chapter in the modern slavery book is being written this week as more proof of Apple’s slavery scheme is uncovered.
According to AFP, a recent audit conducted in the company’s factories reveals serious workplace abuses in China, where Apple products are built. Previous to this audit, Apple contractors have been accused of abusing factory workers in the Asian country. Apple officials have even confessed to knowing about the abuses for a long time, but did nothing about it. In the specific case of Foxconn, the largest manufacturer of electronics an computer components in the world, the long working dates combined with low wages caused many workers to threaten to commit suicide; many went through with the threat and jumped off the factory roof. Foxconn is the producer of components for Mac mini, iPod, iPad, and iPhone, as well as electronics for companies like Dell, HP, Playstation 2 and 3, Wii, Xbox, Motorola, Nokia, and the Amazon Kindle.
Back in January, The New York Times published an article regarding the abuses committed in China against factory workers who in addition to working endless hours everyday, had to put up with unsafe working conditions. An explosion in one factory caused the death of 2 workers with dozens suffering serious injuries. “… the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems,” reported the NYT.
“We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on. Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice,” said an Apple executive back in January. Former Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, preaches this kind of philosophy in his book, which has been read by millions of people around the world. He himself would squeeze every drop of sweat from many of his workers, which was one of the reasons why Jobs left apple before returning to take the company from the technological shadow to one of the richest in the world. But that success, as we have learned, is based on the abuse of hundreds of laborers who live, work and die in factories where Apple products are made. In several factories, workers usually accumulate between 76 and 80 hours before taking a rest. This is the limit established by Chinese labor laws. In other cases, people worked for a week in a row, before having a 24 hour break.
“The Fair Labor Association gave Apple’s largest supplier the equivalent of a full-body scan through 3,000 staff hours investigating three of its factories and surveying more than 35,000 workers,” revealed FLA president Auret van Heerden. “Apple and its supplier Foxconn have agreed to our prescriptions, and we will verify progress and report publicly.” Aside from this audit, Apple and its partners seem to have the lack of laws and working rights as its best allies to force workers into modern slavery camps. According to the report presented by the FLA, the abuses do not stop at long working periods. The audit also revealed dangerous working conditions which directly threaten the health and well being of the laborers.
For the most part, Apple and its contractors have operated off the hook, with no monitoring that ensures fair conditions and wages for workers or basic safety conditions. Up until last January, Foxconn had ignored requests to improve working conditions at its factory in China. According to FLA’s van Heerden, if Foxconn respected its commitments, at least 1.2 million employees’ lives would be improved as the company would establish a new set of standards for factories in China. Any protection for the workers have been limited to rhetoric, as in the case of China’s future Premier, who simply suggested that Chinese workers should be treated more humanly, as supposed to requesting immediate action to end modern slavery practices.
In the past, Li Keqiang has said that corporations “should pay more attention to caring for workers.” The Vice Premier’s passivity resembles how little China cares for its people, who are often treated by the governing Communist Party as a little less than animals, especially when it comes to individual and labor rights. While middle-class and wealthy consumers enjoy the benefits and perks of owning Apple products around the world, slave workers continue to be overworked and underpaid by Apple and Foxconn.
The Fair Labor Association also conducted and overview of Apple contracted factories in Taiwan, where companies like Quanta and Pegatron also produce Apple products. While he was Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs defended the current working conditions at factories in China. “You go in this place and it’s a factory but, my gosh, they’ve got restaurants and movie theatres and hospitals and swimming pools. For a factory, it’s pretty nice,” he said during an interview. “It’s not a sweatshop.”
“The work at Foxconn’s Shenzhen plant can be repetitive, exhausting, and alienating—like manufacturing jobs anywhere in the world,” reported Tony Law for Wired Magazine in February 2011. His in-depth report told “the wonders” of Foxconn’s labor camps, where workers had everything from counseling to dormitories. According to Low’s report, a Chinese newspaper reporter saw first hand what working for Foxconn is all about. ” … tales of hopelessness and voluntary overtime affidavits.” Up until April 2011, at least 17 workers had committed suicide at that factory alone. While people in the United States and Europe talk and worry about the dangers of finger strains that teenagers face in light of the heavy use of iPads and iPods, in Asia factory workers die or are worked to death to provide Americans and Europeans with the opportunity to screw up their articulations.
After FLA released its report about the lousy working conditions and long working days people who make Apple products deal with in Asia, the company’s stock price only suffered a minor loss and stayed at $608.18 per share. Most likely, Apple customers were too busy feeling trendy and straining their fingers to notice that their loyalty to Apple directly sustains modern slavery in the world.
Why is it that technological advancement must always have these sort of strings attached? It has been the same for decades.
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Luis Miranda is the founder and editor of The Real Agenda. For more of his stories, subscribe to our article feed. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Email article ideas and insights through the Contact page.