“Do you really think Apple doesn’t know?”


The quote, “do you really think Apple doesn’t know,” was something that struck me as interesting and stuck in my head throughout the podcast. As stated by Mike Daisy, it is pretty obvious that Apple is not oblivious to the conditions the workers in China face on a daily basis, as a company that is overly concerned with details clearly knows everything about what goes on in their own production plant and simply sees only what they want to see. This then begs the question, how much is Apple doing to fix this mistreatment and how much more should they do?

Due to the fact that I have had some previous educational experience learning about Foxconn and what goes on inside the fences, much of the information discussed in the podcast didn’t come as a surprise to me. I was not aware, however, of many of the details and intricacies of what life is like for a Foxconn employee and hearing Mike Daisy speak about it puts it in perspective. The conditions he described were horrendous. Workers are essentially putting themselves in jail for the sake of their families “well-being.” They live in tight concrete cells, are forced to stand all day, and must work extremely long hours just to make a somewhat adequate living. I was shocked when Daisy described the ways in which the workers’ bodies can actually deteriorate from doing a certain action or movement all day long over and over again. This health risks, along with the fact that a great deal of the workers are so young (some were described as being 12-14 years old), poses serious ethical problems for Foxconn and the working conditions.

One thing that Daisy mentioned that struck me as truly telling was the fact that the turnover rate was so high. From what I remember about Foxconn in my marketing class, the turnover rate could be as high as 35% per year, with some workers quitting after just one day of experiencing the Foxconn work life. Going back to the title of my post, is Apple actually a company that should have a cult like following? They are surely aware of what takes place in their factories, yet don’t seem to make any seriously influential changes, as to not hurt their productivity. I thought Daisy brought up a couple good points at the end of his discussion about changes that Apple and Foxconn could easily make, yet haven’t. Daisy mentions the fact that the workers in Foxconn could simply be rotated within the factory, as to decrease injuries due to ware-and-tare. Apple’s internal response to this suggestion would simply be that the worker’s wouldn’t be as efficient at doing jobs they aren’t experienced at and thus, will not meet the quota. What’s more important though, the well being of 430,000 workers, or producing the maximum number of electronics possible? He also mentions that their should be random inspections to make sure basic labor standards are met, instead of inspections that the managers are aware of and are able to prepare for. These are both things that are rather easy solutions to just a few of the many complex issues taking place daily at Foxconn.

The point is – Apple knows. It’s only a matter of how much they are willing to sacrifice.

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11 thoughts on ““Do you really think Apple doesn’t know?””

  1. What I very much liked about your blog post was how you portrayed the motivations to why the workers of Foxconn would continue to work in such harsh conditions, and how, on one hand, Foxconn is helping provide employment and opportunities for future generations, but at the cost of emotional and physical suffering.

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  2. I like that you addressed the some of the solutions that Daisey discussed in his show. All of our blogs (my own included) have mostly been about what the problems are with Foxconn and Apple, without acknowledging solutions to the issues.

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  3. What’s more important though, the well being of 430,000 workers, or producing the maximum number of electronics possible? In considering this question you posed, although I agree that the well being of 430,000 workers is of foremost importance, I thought of the counter argument. How important is it to consumers to have their Apple products? Would they/we be willing to give the products that they rely so heavily on every day because of the way these workers are treated at manufacturing facilities like Foxconn?

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  4. Looking at your opening line, “This then begs the question, how much is Apple doing to fix this mistreatment and how much more should they do?”, I’d be interested to hear what you thought about Apple’s recent efforts to ‘improve’ the conditions at Foxconn- http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2012/03/apple_foxconn_how_the_world_s_most_valuable_company_turned_its_labor_crisis_into_a_way_to_beat_its_competitors_.html

    Interesting article I read while researching more on the podcast.

    I’d also add- Foxconn manufactures mobile technology for not only Apple, but also Google, Sony, Microsoft, and Nokia (world’s largest mobile phone maker) How much of the burden falls on Apple alone? Apple is Foxconn’s largest customer, estimates I saw have Apple contributing at anywhere between 35-50% of Foxconn’s annual revenues. Your last line- “The point is – Apple knows. It’s only a matter of how much they are willing to sacrifice.” Can we have real societal change if another major company (i.e. Google) steps up and ‘sacrifices’?

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  5. I think it would be an interesting experiment to put 100 Americans in a room and tell them about the conditions that Foxconn workers have to endure every day in order for Americans to receive iPhones. I honestly skeptical that most people would immediately give up their iPhones. We are too distant from the everyday reality of Foxconn’s labor conditions to truly understand what we are asking the Chinese workers to do for us. Perhaps compromises of price, production levels, etc would be offered up. However I also don’t think that it is ultimately up to the consumer to decide. Apple does know whats going on- and the fact that they know doesn’t change anything. Apple has willingly cultivated a following that is too loyal to be affected by even this kind of news.

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    1. How about this: of the 100 iPhone users, give them the same technology and services but that costs $1 more? Would you buy the second phone knowing that the workers were paid better, had more say in working conditions, were not exposed to undue risk, and so on?

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  6. I am sure you are correct in asserting that Apple knows that its suppliers are unethical, yet they post publically their obviously misleading Supplier Code of Conduct here. https://www.apple.com/supplier-responsibility/pdf/Apple_Supplier_Code_of_Conduct.pdf
    I firmly believe that any efforts to enforce this Code of Conduct is done purely as a response to quell concerns among its consumers. I think for this reason its consumers are partly responsible for not questioning the production process before making purchasing decisions. One thing I find particularly true about consumers of Apple products is the necessity to update and buy each new product as it comes out. This seems particularly wasteful and adds to the effects experienced by the factory workers.

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  7. The quote from the podcast, “Do you really think Apple doesn’t know,” was the part of the podcast that really struck me the hardest. I was actually going to write about it, but saw that you already posted it, so I decided to write about something else. Apple, a company that is obsessed with gathering as much data as fast as they can, definitely knows about the working conditions. I did a project on Nike a few years ago, who also have a similar sweatshop reputation as FoxConn and Apple, and unfortunately those companies can hide behind the fact that they only lease the actual factories, and that they claim they don’t decide the working conditions.

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