Personal issues and crimes of conscience, re: apple products

Posted on 05.04.2011

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I got all riled up a few weeks ago after I read THIS ARTICLE in Wired Magazine, about the 19 suicides at Foxconn Technology, a plant in the industrial zone of China that manufactures iProducts: the iPhone, iPad, iPod.

Sure, there are over a million workers there, so 19 suicides shouldn’t feel like a lot. Only, one suicide is too many as far as I’m concerned. 19 is a small percentage of the whole, but it’s still too many. I had grand visions of starting a revolution, boycotting my beloved apple products and inspiring everyone I knew to do the same, until Apple could force the company to make some changes.

But before that could happen, I needed to do the research to see if my gut feeling was right. The result was a classic communist one: no information available online except for a few bare Wikipedia pages and the Foxconn international website, where I obviously wouldn’t get anything I was looking for.

I feel like there are human rights violations happening. The Wired article alluded to forced overtime, short deadlines, general 1984-style disillusionment. But I wasn’t able to find anything else on the company or the mental state of its workers, except for a Wiki article HERE discussing general Chinese labour unrest. Foxconn is the first to be listed in the chart.

Maybe the factory’s not as bad as places in, say, Rwanda or Congo. But aren’t all violations bad? Shouldn’t we do what we can to stop all of them? Maybe the Foxconn workers still get treated better than any other workers in China, period, but are their standards up to ours? Would WE work in that factory, if given a choice?

And this is where I’m torn: on one hand, I want to boycott Apple until they feel inclined to inspire changes for the better at their manufacturing locations. No, they don’t own Foxconn, but threatening to take away their business would seriously cause Foxconn to think about doing whatever Apple requested.

On the other hand, I can’t find enough information to suggest such a boycott. And I’d rather have at least better-than-reasonable suspicion before suggesting that all of my artist friends stop buying the products that they earn a living using.

The curse of globalization: give the workers in developing countries better standards of living and higher wages, and we end up paying more for the products they manufacture for us. I’d be ok with that. Everyone else might not be.

I’d love to find more information on this. I don’t know where to even look. Any suggestions?

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Posted in: politics