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Generation Apple: The Human Toll

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.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Technology

 

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