update: apple

Quick update to the Mike Daisey/Foxconn/Apple story I wrote about last week: The New York Times has written a long article about conditions in the factory and about Apple’s efforts to reduce labor violations in their supply chain. Two things that I thought were particularly noteworthy:
First, I thought it was very interesting that the article chose as its central human figure one of the relatively high-paid, skilled workers in the plant. The fact that this worker had high wages and extra perks relative to most of the other workers in the plant highlights the failure to protect workers from hazardous conditions as well as the callous way that large manufacturers treat the lives of their workers.
Also deeply fascinating was this selection of reader comments on the article from Caixin, a Chinese business magazine that the Grey Lady partnered with to publish the article in China. Granted, these comments come from people that both have internet access and are on a business magazine side, but they show the same range of opinions on the labor abuses that you would find in the US, from

Even though Apple should be ethically condemned, the key point is: whether the working conditions inside the factories are supervised by law. This (supervision) is the duty of judicial officers and labor unions. Now everything is driven only by G.D.P., so which government official would dare supervise those companies? They (the governments) have long reduced themselves to the servant of the giant enterprises.


 By the way, construction workers and farmers are also living a harsh life in China, shall we also boycott housing and grains?

The This American Life episode struggled with this ambivalence; it’s true that China’s mass manufacturing industry has raised more people out of poverty than any other endeavor/period in history, but its also true that this has come at a staggering human cost. The queasy discomfort that we feel at buying these products is also felt by the countries that sell them.

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