Behind the screens

Listening to “This American Life” I was filled with a mixture of emotions and feelings toward the story of the Apple Factory at the Foxconn plant. I thought the way the story was approached was very light and comical which I believed was an interesting choice to start the story. He gave personal and light insight to his passion towards technology, especially Apple. I thought this was witty as it allowed the audience to relate to how most people feel about consumer products. It is all about the product and very little thought at all is given to how it is made and under what conditions. We consider our consumer goods and products as a very personal relationship and the thought that hundreds of other people have put it together very rarely cross our mind. I was shocked to learn how much of Apple technology is still handmade. I had heard stories of Nike and other larger companies who have been scrutinized for cheap labor in countries like China, but I never really spent much time considering technology companies also had this much human labor behind our everyday products.

In regards to the workers and their conditions in the Foxconn plant, I was upset to hear how young some of the workers were and the hourly shifts that they were put through. The image of the plant reminded me of a prison. With armed guards, safety nets for suicide, little bunks to sleep people, it seemed more of a sentence than a work life. The story of the man who died after he worked 36 hour shift was very saddening. Another story that was impactful was the man who got his arm caught in one of the machines. While he worked with assembling Apple products every day, he had never seen a full functioning iPad. That story struck me as cruelly ironic, as this man is now forever handicapped due to his work for a product he never even has the ability to obtain or use.

I thought “The American Life” was a very moving story and left me with several unsettling thoughts. It sounded as though Apple did respond to some of this news as it went in and removed some underage children and sent them back to school. Apple asked the factory using the neuro toxins to stop, as it was crippling workers. While this sounds like a good response, I can’t help feel aggravated that it took a public story to make Apple act on this. Apple had to have known about these conditions before the story, but it was not until the news could tarnish their public image that they decided to act. I am not against finding labor in other countries as it is creating jobs for many people. However it is wrong how workers are used and disposed, blacklisted for asking for overtime money, put through terrible work shifts and treated as if they are just cogs in a machine. Labor laws and conditions need to be a more prevalent thought in consumers and businesses everywhere. I thought this story was a unique way of getting this message across.


2 responses to “Behind the screens

  1. I appreciate your sentiment on the matter. I guess im not surprised at all so i was not that moved by all this information. This does not happen only in China and it does not happen only with electronics. Unless we as Americans and American companies decided that it is not all about the money and not all about speed, this will keep happening if we like it or not.

    It is interesting to me how this would never happen in America because of unions and such. May be the solution is to go at the Chinese government and say, “If efforts aren’t taken to improve working conditions, then we will no longer need the services of Foxconn and other manufacturers”. (I just laughed as i wrote this) We all know this is a radical idea and will never happen.

  2. I liked the point you made about people not thinking about technology being handmade. I also don’t think first of the technology industry when I hear about child labor, and unsafe working conditions abroad. Perhaps this is because the are creating such expensive, high tier products. The long shifts are also crazy to think about, I couldn’t imagine what it must be like going through a shift thats over a full day long. Finally, I definitely agree with the fact that Apple must have known about the working conditions. Especially because Mr. Daisey specifically mentioned that the factories would show potential investors anything they wanted to see. Doesnt that mean that apple execs were shown the same things when they were deciding on whether or not to do business with Foxconn.

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