Apple and Chinese factories – does anyone care?

Here is a very interesting article on working conditions inside Chinese factories where Apple products are assembled.

… but I wonder how many people would actually change their purchasing patterns if they knew about this. People are lazy and only concerned about first world issues, aren’t they?

And, hell, not even first world issues, most of the time. The focus for a lot of people is on the trivial, superficial and non-consequential. It’s about movie stars, pro athletes and what so-and-so was wearing at the Oscars. I hate to be cynical (well, no I don’t really), but doesn’t our pathetic voter turnout tell us that not only do people not give a crap about non-first world stuff, they can’t even bother to care about vital issues that are impacting them directly!

And hey, I’m just as guilty as anyone else – sometimes. Yes, I do talk about local, provincial and federal political issues, and education and the environment. But I also devote a considerable number of bytes to Don Cherry, the weather, sports, and other things that really do not impact our lives or those of our families and friends. I can be pretty damned shallow!

This is what someone posted on FB in response to an anti-Harper status (and it wasn’t mine), but I thought it well-put:

I don’t understand why more people aren’t standing up to these bullies??!! It’s undemocratic what’s going on! People should be taking to the streets! I don’t underst… Yay! My PVR recorded The Good Wife last night! Gotta watch it now! Democracy can wait another day.

‘Nuff said.

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7 Comments to “Apple and Chinese factories – does anyone care?”

  1. Chris says:

    This is interesting. I think the Squid is right — another example of judging others by our narrow standards. I think we can get so mired down in trying to make everyone in the world just like us, that we’re missing the bigger picture. Are we obligated to step in and “do something” whenever we see another person or another country conducting themselves contrary to how we believe they should be conducting themselves? Do we buy the panhandler on the street a sandwich from Tim Horton’s because we think if we give him money (which is what he really wants) he’ll just spend it on booze or drugs and we don’t want to be party to that? Or do we just give him the money he’s asking for? China actively courts our business. Do we give them our business or do we lay a whole bunch of conditions on it so they work according to our labour laws? I’m pretty sure that workers all over the 1st, 2nd and 3rd world are all exploited to one extent or another.

    • trashee says:

      OK – to both of you. I see the point. But at what fork in the road do we say “that’s far enough”? Are so-called “blood diamonds” subject to the same line of reasoning? How about the use of economic sanctions to force a country to change a policy – e.g., apartheid?
      I guess that a point I was really trying to make (and clearly not clearly) was that instead of focussing on the trivial, most folks in the first world should at least make an effort to pay attention to issues like these and then make their own personal choices accordingly.

      • I have a number of issues with diamonds.

        Issue 1: they are expensive because they are artificially hoarded by a small number of people in a cartel. People hoarding to artificially inflate a price piss me off. They are ripping off the world. The De Boers shat bricks when Russia threatened to liquidate its diamond assets, but a few bribes later and they had that covered.

        Issue 2: For a long time, diamonds were mined by what amounts to black slaves being deliberately oppressed by their government solely because they were black. While their shitty working condx may seem similar to what we’re talking about with Apple, there is a fundamental philosophical difference… these people were sent into the mines because they were viewed to be expendable animals by their own government. This is substantively different from “will work voluntarily for cheap wages”.

        Issue 3: Where the first two issues come up short, I think it is *complete* bullshit that in Western society we have a weird culture of “buy a girl a diamond to show her you love her”. The money spent on a ludicrous diamond engagement ring (what do they suggest now, 2 months’ salary?) would be much better spent on a downpayment for a house, or just paying off debt. Hell, taking it and going on some awesome trip would be better that stuffing the coffers of some South African colonial asshole who is sitting on a pile of diamonds.

        Beyond that, I don’t care. If fools want to use diamond money to kill each other, that’s their problem. I would conjecture, however, that if people stopped hoarding diamonds, and if western suckers stopped thinking diamonds were something special, the war mongers would go out of business much quicker than they ever will if people complain about “blood diamonds”.

      • You know… you can burn diamonds. They are made of carbon after all, just like a charcoal briquette…

        http://www.popsci.com/diy/article/2009-08/burn-diamonds-torch-and-liquid-oxygen

      • Chris says:

        I don’t know. I don’t think the things we in the 1st world do to stop things like apartheid are quite as black and white as that. I don’t think western governments ever do something just because we want to make life better for people in 3rd world countries — we step in because it’s somehow to our advantage economically. We didn’t send troops to the middle east because we care about how they treat women, for instance. Even this whole viral Kony thing has more dimensions than the Twilight Zone. We can never know enough about the politics of our own governments let alone the politics of foreign nations to ever hope to make a truly educated decision on which causes to support, what to boycott, what to protest against/for. It’s paralyzing if you start thinking about it too much. Maybe the answer is to just jump on any bandwagon that’s popular and hope for the best?? I don’t know.

  2. I’m one of the few people willing to speak openly and frankly about this issue…

    It’s true, I do not care if Apple gives its workers in China crappy working conditions, nor do I care if a clothing company uses child labour in some Latin American hole. I am not going to change my buying patterns to support some whiny toss-pot’s pipe-dream that everywhere in the world should have the same labour laws equivalent to France or some such thing.

    It’s very easy to sit in an ivory tower here in the first world and bitch and moan about how hard done-by they are in China or El Salvador or wherever. What’s harder to do is imagine how much worse they could be.

    Without the money they make from these sweat-shop jobs, they’d largely be starving dirt farmers. It doesn’t take a lot of brainpower to realize that they are demonstrably better off with these jobs – jobs that typically pay much better than they could get anywhere else around there.

    No, the jobs are not something that would fly here in North America. Of course, that’s part of why they are not IN North America.

    Yes, it is absolutely OK by me if people’s lives are being made slightly better instead of being made perfect.

    So when you want Apple to end its labour practices in China, you should be prepared to say “You know Apple, that new iPad is not bad at $600, but I am willing to pay $2400 so you’ll make it according to US labour rules.”

    It’s stupid to say “well, I just won’t buy an Apple” because even if you don’t buy Apple, nearly everything you do buy has, somewhere in its supply chain, a sweat shop or Chinese labour camp or what have you. I’m not interested in paying $45 for a T-shirt that’s really only worth $7 but costs $45 because it has to be made in a union-approved, dues-paying factory by unskilled, highly paid workers. Give me an $8 shirt with all those good labour practices and I might take the high ground, but by about $9 that good-labour shirt is priced out of the market.

    Eventually, Chinese workers will come to the same conclusions that American workers did at the turn of the 20th century. No amount of whining here in North America is going to speed that process up.

    • trashee says:

      As well, I would be a total hypocrite if I raged against this particular machine a bit much. I buy goods from China and in China. There is a reason why I can get $18 tailor-made shirts at the Silk Market in Beijing!

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