Friday, February 24, 2012

Conflicted by Apple's labor practices

I am so upset because I'm not about to give up my iPhone nor the MacBook Pro that I am typing this blog on. But…what are we as a low-priced wal-mart based culture to do when the King of computer hipness, Apple, turns into a Kathy Lee Gifford "I didn't know how my t-shirts were being produced by essentially slave labor type" of company? How does that work? It's one thing when your clothing or toys are made with this kind of cheap labor because you can simply buy a different brand of clothing or buy it used from a consignment/thrift store so you don't have the taint of supporting "The Man". But…buy or use something different than my precious, I-worked-hard-for-this-and-waited-until-my-contract-had-run-out-but-just-said-"what-de-hell" -I'll-just-pay-the cut-off-fee-because-my-old-phone-sucks, iPhone? Ooooo, that's hard.  I've been a Mac person all my adult life.  Sigh…But we can't turn our faces away just because we like a product.  We can hold the maker of our product accountable. Suggestions?

Joshua Topolsky of the Washington Post writes:

So it would seem that a conversation has started that is rather significant, both to the electronics industry as a whole and to the wider globalized world. We’re starting to discover that the shiny toys we buy and use don’t just magically appear. Producing them requires hard work from many thousands of people, work that isn’t always fair or humane.

Yet there's another question, one which may be more important than “what is Apple doing?” That question is what are we doing — as individuals, as governments — to enforce fair treatment around the world? Are Americans willing to pay more for an iPhone if it means fair treatment of workers? Would you be willing to wait longer to get the latest gadget if you knew it was going to be humanely produced? If you didn’t have to worry that the labor could drive someone to suicide?

And it’s not just about Apple. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company may be the innovation leader and biggest earner in technology, but it is not the only player in this game. Far from it. The places where iPhones come from also produce products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Sony, Lenovo and more.

This isn’t an Apple problem, it’s an industry wide problem.

More to the point, it’s a human rights problem, one that needs to be dealt with head-on. We can’t sit passively by, complaining that Foxconn isn’t fair to its workers while also demanding the lowest-cost electronics and fastest iteration of new products. As consumers, we have a responsibility to demand that the companies who make our technology do better than this. That they do better than the status quo.

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