What do a laptop, an iPod, a TV, and speakers have in common? Besides the fact that they are all things that I am currently using, they are most likely all made in China. Something that is likely a very common theme in your everyday college dorm room. The relationship that most people have with these products is borderline addiction. It seems like a reoccurring event that every weekend you will see at least half a dozen emails on message center asking for help to find a missing iPhone. I won’t act as if I am not part of this grouping. Whenever my phone is lost or broken I feel detached from society. It almost begs the question of how people were able to live before cell phones came around.
In terms of the podcast featuring Mr. Daisey, I think it would be tough for most people to say that they weren’t engaged by his speech. His ability to tell a morose story and still be able to get laughter from the crowd displayed a very unique style. It certainly could have been left purely as a lecture on the conditions of the working environment in Chinese factories. But he was able to present a very dark topic in a rather light manner. In terms of the facts that he addressed I cannot say that I am incredibly surprised. There has been coverage of children working in sweat shops and people getting sick due to exposure to chemicals in the work place for years. Apple claims to be 100% transparent, with documents available on their website concerning working conditions and codes of conduct for their supplier companies. One fact that really jumped out towards the end of the podcast was that in one year of auditing their supplier companies, Apple found that only around 30% of their suppliers were actually following the codes of conduct. Apple claimed that they were addressing the issue, yet they never released the names of the companies to the public. If Apple truly wants to be transparent, I think that this list of suppliers should be readily available.
Mr. Daisey mentioned his faithful connections with Mac as being almost religious, with Steve Jobs reigning as King, and depicting Windows devices as the “town bicycle,” if you will. In fact, studies have been shown to prove that when Apple fans walk into an Apple store, a religious reaction is triggered in their brains. So what is the allure that Apple emanates to make its fans fall in love with their products? Is it their sleek and slender design? Their ease of use? Possibly it’s their high quality? At this point I for one cannot pinpoint what the draw is, especially when many people know the conditions under which their products are constructed. It is very likely that Apple is so highly scrutinized because of its size and worldwide appeal, but it doesn’t seem to stop their record sales and technological advances. Mr. Daisey noted in the podcast that so many of the things we use on a daily basis are handmade, and as long as consumers demand the highest quality in whatever they are buying, the trend is not likely to change.
The two facts which I took the most umbrage to concerned the length of working shifts, and the concept of secret unions. The average working day for people working at factories like Foxcon is 8 hours, including a case in which an employee died after working a shift of over 30 hours. As Mr. Daisey mentioned, this is 8 hours of constant movement with the highest expectations on work efficiency. If you can’t do it fast enough, you will be replaced. Plain and simple. And if workers decide that they want to take their problems to the labor board, their names are placed on a black list and given to other such companies so as to keep “trouble makers” out of their facilities. These horror stories, and the sheer fact that secret unions even have to exist are indicative enough of the status of workers lives in China and likely other countries. The closing song in the podcast summed up the entire lecture perfectly. “Out of sight. Out of mind.”