Mike Daisey’s visit to the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China where iPhones and Macs are made has sparked a national debate.
Are our precious Mac toys and tools made by child labor, by unhappy people who are paid poorly and treated even worse? Should you, should I toss iTunes to the wind and shout at the computer Gods, “I’ll never buy another Mac again.”?
My next phone will be…
As much as I’d like to take a stand, my next phone will be an iPhone and my next computer will be a Mac. What are the alternatives? All of our electronics are made under these conditions.
That said, what are the conditions? No one knows. Short of going to China and talking with workers, which Mike Daisey did and which I did, we only know what China wants us to know.
Unannounced 3rd party inspectors with teeth and companies and customers that actually care are the only way any of this will change.
There was a great piece in Washington Monthly by T.A. Frank titled, “Confessions of a Sweatshop Inspector.” Frank a former factor inspector writes:
Now, anyone in the business knows that when inspections uncover safety violations or wage underpayment more than once or twice—let alone five times—it’s a sign that bigger problems are lurking beneath. Companies rarely get bamboozled about this sort of thing unless they want to.
Sometimes consumers prefer to be bamboozled too.
To really see what’s up with your iPhone check out its GoodGuide ranking. Scored on its environmental and social impact, the iPhone4 is ranked 69 of 498 phones. It scored a 5.2 of 10 in social impact. The highest ranked phone a Palm Pixl scored a 7 of 10 in social impact and that score was mostly earned by Palm’s avoidance of using conflict minerals in the phone. When it came to workers, Palm scored no higher than the iPhone.
I’m glad the debate is happening, but will it change anything.
What you can do today
Join me in emailing Apple at email@example.com. You can even copy and past my note below:
I’m a loyal Apple customer. I have an iPhone and a MacBook. I’ve been very disturbed by the recent reports of poor working conditions at the Foxconn factory in China where Apple products. As a forward thinking company, that always seems to know what its customers want before they know they want it, I encourage you to lead the way in ensuring that the workers who make your products are treated and paid fairly. This is something I want even more than a MacBook Air.