Generation Apple: The Human Toll

25 Sep

We all know someone who is addicted to their iPhone. Apple just recently released their iPhone 5 and sold five million units over the weekend. Wall Street was a bit disappointed with the numbers because they had anticipated selling ten million, but in reality, ten million units is a fairly unrealistic number. As time goes by, the iPhone will do very well.

One thing that isn’t talked about much is how Apple mass produces their products. Despite being one of the richest companies on Earth, they don’t seem to be opposed to treating their workers like human garbage.

Take this news story as an example:

A day before the iPhone 5’s release last week, SACOM published a report, called “New iPhones, old abuses,” that found that “the old problems of labour rights abuses remain norms at Foxconn” after interviewing 60 workers at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou, China, plant. At some personal risk, Chan has traveled frequently from the relative safety of Hong Kong to mainland China to interview workers.

Those discussions have led Chan to report on excessive overtime for workers, required hours that violate Chinese labor laws. She’s documented unpaid overtime work, as well as compulsory meetings where managers berate employees about about low productivity, the high rates of product defects, and disciplinary problems. And she’s written about unsafe conditions in Foxconn metal-working and parts-processing workshops, where workers handled chemicals unknown to them with little in the way of protection.

“Most of the workers feel hopeless when you ask them about work pressures,” Chan told me. “They’ll say, ‘Everywhere, it’s the same.'”

For Chan, that’s not good enough.

“The profit margins of Apple keep rising,” she said. “Apple has the capacity to increase” the amount they pay Foxconn to produce iPhones.

I understand that Apple is a business and the primarily goal of any business is to make money. However, we as consumers need to keep an eye on things like this and hopefully punish them in the marketplace when they violate human rights.

Are cell phones really worth more than human decency? Shouldn’t we be demanding that Apple provide their workers with at least basic labor rights? They’re clearly taking advantage of the poor living conditions and labor laws in China.

I’m all for cell phones. They’ve revolutionized the way we communicate both personally and in the business world.

I’d just rather they were produced honestly and not by a mega-company that seems happy to rake in the profits while treating their workers like human trash.


Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Technology


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3 responses to “Generation Apple: The Human Toll

  1. Karen Kleis

    September 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    And this is why I have so far resisted getting an iPhone. I read something similar to this a couple of years ago and it really put me off Apple products.

    • geeksandtech

      September 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      I hear you, Karen. I’ve never owned an iPhone and I don’t really understand the hype that surrounds them. The way they treat their workers while sitting on a pile of cash makes me sick to my stomach. I’m sure there are many other companies that are guilty of the same thing.

  2. P_Nut_Gallery

    September 27, 2012 at 8:18 am

    I have to say, you’re article is very thought provoking… But… As you said in your reply, there are a lot of companies that do the same… It is not just Apple that extorts the lives of people for work.. We wear clothes that are made in sweat shops – I don’t see anyone walking around naked in my neighbourhood…. We use other small appliances that are made in sub-standard work enviroments.. But, I don’t see many people not using their microwave, blenders, vaccums…. It is very sad to know that this happens to people, especially in the times that we live in… But, how can we fix it? It is a hard place for all to be in, especially those who are doing the underpaid work. But, it is really fair to limit one company, to make an example out of one company, to judge one company, knowing that next week – there will be another one doing the same and possible worse… Knowledge is power and I guess making us aware of the problem is a start…


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