Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Apple Boycott Urged Over Foxconn Investigation


Hey, that logo looks familiar...
Several high-profile media outlets are calling for a boycott of Apple products, amid new reports of mistreatment of workers at the company's manufacturing chain in China.
The New York Times first ignited media interest last week with a series of articles describing terrible working conditions at factories belonging to Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn. The company has several factories in mainland China where it produces components for an array electronic devices, including the Apple iPad.
The newspaper described conditions resembling bonded labor, with employees being forced to work obscenely long shifts in unhealthy conditions, and without many of the labor rights that workers in the West would take for granted. It also mentioned people being killed in explosions at iPad factories, and workers being given poisonous chemicals with which to clean iPhone screens.
Industry commentators from a number of publications have responded to the New York Times report, calling on consumers to boycott Apple.
Dan Lyons, who writes for The Daily Beast and Newsweek, described the situation as "barbaric," but said that "ultimately the blame lies not with Apple and other electronics companies -- but with us, the consumers. And ultimately we are the ones who must demand change."
The Los Angeles Times and Forbes magazine added to the outcry, with Forbes columnist Peter Cohan stating that the number of workers who die building iPhones and iPads is "shockingly high." Others have also pointed to Apple's failure to adequately respond to the reports, and the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones has suggested that the company needs a new PR strategy.
Apple is not the only international technology company to use Foxconn, however, and this is also not the first time that working conditions at Foxconn have made headlines. Its practices were even thesubject of a theater production.
Earlier this year, Microsoft was forced to deal with reports that 150 people working on the Xbox 360 assembly line at the Foxconn Technology Park in Wuhan had threatened to commit mass suicide. Microsoft claimed that the suicide protest had to do with working conditions, and was related to staffing assignments and transfer policies.
Foxconn also faced a string of worker suicides in 2010, amid reports in the Chinese media that its staff were being abused. The company agreed to raise the wages of its workers by 20 percent, despite reports that the it had considered closing its mainland Chinese plants, and Foxconn installed anti-jumper nets on its high-rise buildings to prevent more suicides.
Then in May 2011, a number of Foxconn workers were killed in an explosion at a factory in Chengdu. The explosion happened in a polishing workshop in the factory where Apple's iPad 2 tablets were being made, and is believed to have been caused by a build-up of aluminum dust.
Apple's chief executive Tim Cook has responded to the latest allegations in an internal email to staff, obtained by 9to5Mac, stating that Apple cares about every worker in its worldwide supply chain.
"Any suggestion that we don't care is patently false and offensive to us," he wrote. "As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values."
Cook added that Apple inspects its factories every year and has helped to improve conditions for "hundreds of thousands of workers". He also said the company was focused on educating workers about their rights, and promised to never turn a blind eye to problems in the company's supply chain.


  1. Apple puts the largest demand on Foxxcon. If their products were boycotted it would put pressure on Apple to switch companies or Foxxcon to change practices.

    Boycott Apple now for a better tomorrow!

  2. The people calling for a boycott haven't thought this through.

    What magical company is Apple supposed to have build their stuff that 1) can handle its capacity, and 2) doesn't have similar (or worse) working conditions?

    What products are people supposed to buy instead that aren't also manufactured under similar conditions?

    If people boycott ALL Foxxcon manufactured products (as they should if they are principled), there would be mass layoffs. And the workers would better off unemployed?

    Apple is already doing what it can to improve things. A boycott won't really help. People realize this fact (or just don't care). I doubt a sufficient number will participate in a boycott to make Apple change its present course.

    The real problem, of course, is not Apple. It is the Chinese government, who doesn't seem to promote or support workers rights, and it is the American government whose policies have enabled and encouraged American companies to offshore their production in the first place.

    Punishing Apple with a boycott could theoretically give an advantage to its competitors without actually solving the root problem. But haters aren't really interested in the welfare of Chinese workers. They just want to stir up whatever shit they can in a futile attempt to hurt Apple.

  3. Someone sounds scared. The mere thought and threat of a boycott should certainly work or at least get Apple's attention. Are you trying to say that there are no manufacturing companies in the US that can make those devices and need the jobs? Please. Apple can afford to pay more and creating jobs in the US would be a fantastic PR move because they could use it. The problem and solution both are in the consumer.

  4. Yes I am saying that the manufacturing infrastructure for manufacturing precision gadgets in massive quantities at reasonable cost in the US no longer exists.

    Apple accumulated its cash reserves, not by paying less for labor than its competitors pay for theirs (they all use offshore factories), but by consistently delivering products that are worthy of selling at a substantial profit. Now you are essentially claiming they should give away their profit as a social service to American workers.

    Suppose, for argument's sake, that Apple did bring its manufacturing back to the US with all the attendant investment of building and outfitting new factories as required, and paying US rates for labor. For a while it might be able to operate at a lower profit level, spending down its nest egg while attempting to compete with companies who continue to use cheap labor (essentially Apple fighting with one hand tied behind its back). However, Apple, as a for-profit public corporation has a fiduciary duty to its shareholders not to do so. If it attempted to do this, its board of directors would be voted out pronto and replaced with people that would again move the manufacturing offshore. Either that or Apple would gradually lose money, fall behind technically, and eventually go out of business (which I suppose is the hater's true intent). Either way, Apple's US factories would close and things would go back to how they are now.

    The problem of third world working conditions is a bigger problem than can be solved by Apple alone. Apple is already doing what it can.

  5. That's total bs and you know it. There are plenty of capable manufacturing plants and workers in the US that can handle building electronics like ipads or something worth while like Android devices. They could offset some of the costs with drastically reduced shipping and other charges incurred when importing massive amounts of product overseas. I hope an Android maker does it first and blows everyone out of the water.

  6. If an Android maker is successful bringing manufacturing back to the US, more power to them. I'd actually love to be proven wrong on this.

  7. Are those cheaper products really such a bargain to the American consumer? Each year over 100 billion dollars is collected by unemployed Americans paid for by the US taxpayer. Add this to the cost of those cheaper products made in China.

  8. Looks like in his zeal to vilify Apple, Mike Daisey just made shit up.