[CS-FSLUG] Why Apple gadgets can’t be made in the U.S.

Josiah Ritchie josiah at josiahritchie.com
Thu Jan 26 08:24:47 CST 2012

On Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 1:10 AM, Marco Tedaldi <marco.tedaldi at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 25.01.2012 03:37, Fred A. Miller wrote:
>> It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s
>> executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the
>> flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so
>> outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no
>> longer a viable option for most Apple products.
>> http://www.zdnet.com/blog/apple/why-apple-gadgets-cant-be-made-in-the-us/12075?tag=nl.e539
> Somehow I get the feeling that they regrett, that slavery has been
> outlawed in the Western world. As a positive point for producing in Asia
> they tell this story: (Free from my mind)
> "We had made a mistake and had a last minute change. The make this
> change for us, the producer woke up 8000 workers, gave them a little
> snack and set them to work..." and "this would not have been possible in
> the US".
> Thanx god it is not possible there! The times of owning slaves should be
> over by now! So basically, apple supports slavery like working
> conditions. Great!

If you are really interested in the working conditions in Chinese
factories, "This American Life" did a very interesting piece on
exactly this topic that managed to go directly to the sources from
several different directions. It is almost an hour, but extremely well
told and worth it:

Indulge me to rock the boat a bit, but is it really slavery if they
choose that work? I agree that promoting improved working conditions
is appropriate, but if these conditions are chosen because their other
options are deemed worse and they can leave for those conditions when
they desire, then they are meeting obligations they have signed
themselves up for. To equate this to slavery is to water down the word
when used to describe people who have been taken from their homes
against their will or even sold by their own parents into unpaid
labor. This does not describe the conditions while working, but the
conditions under which one is reimbursed for the work. In fact, during
biblical times we have examples of slaves that were very comfortable
in their condition of slavery (Joseph before he was sent to jail) and
examples of those who were not happy. I'm sure we could find people on
this list who are very unsatisfied with the treatment of their boss,
but remain because of various reasons that don't outweigh their desire
to leave. The point is that Foxconn's employees have a choice. There
are those in our world who do not have a choice. To redefine this term
so loosely is to do a disservice to those in even worse conditions.
Additionally, are we promoting families starving because they can't
get jobs that sometimes include being woken up in the middle of the
night to work for pay? (This sounds a bit like a sys admin job when a
server goes bump in the night, except the sys admin isn't paid extra.)

Not to defend Foxconn, but they are among the top ranking employers in
that country in that market in terms of appropriate care of employees.
That isn't to say they are great, but they are hardly the worst and so
pointing to them as the hallmark of failure is inaccurate. They have
made changes as the result of pressure from the US and others.

Not to defend Apple, but they are hardly the only one using Foxconn
and worse factories to assemble their gadgetry. Really, Apple is one
of the few Foxconn customers at least making the appearance of pushing
for improvement.

So when I look at all those issues, I'm left to assume that there is
something more here than the press is delivering. The spin on the
story is high and broad. The targets are very precise. It makes it
look like someone is out to smear Apple and Foxconn specifically even
though there are weaker targets in both those markets in the areas
being attacked. Our beef needs to be with more than just Foxconn and
Apple, but with Chinese working conditions in all of manufacturing of
gadget and likely other things and with all companies using Chinese
labor at those standards.

What's the real story? Are we getting played?


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