Wow, a very open ended blog post! I love it. I like how this blog is evolving in terms of content and style.
I would have dinner with John Mayer. If you know me at all, this is extremely believable. Despite the flak I may receive from my peers, I stand by my statement. But why John Mayer? Continue reading John Mayer
What I really enjoyed about the podcast was the contrasting approach that it took to the subject by showing the horrible conditions that workers are subjected to but also exploring opinions that on the whole, the situation is positive and constantly improving.
The imagery used to portray the factory horrified and awed me at the same time. The efficiency with which the factory was organised showed the absolute dedication that the management showed towards maximizing production. It also showed the large disconnect between the management and the workers. The workers were definitely not viewed as stakeholders in the organization, but as being expendable, showed by the very high turnover rate for employees. The spartan conditions in which the workers were accommodated showed how only the bare minimum, and only if it increased productivity, was provided. (for example, no seating is provided since it was discovered that standing increases productivity, even if that meant the worker would be standing for as many as 18 hours).
These closely guarded conditions from the factory are clearly not hidden from the authorities, as the cooperation between the Labor Bureau and the corporations shows. The reporter mentions that audits from private companies and state agencies do happen, but many times the corporations are warned ahead of time in order to prepare. Companies for example, would move their oldest employees for example when there was a inspection that might have discovered underage workers. The speaker then mentions that it is incredible how no one has actually figured out what is happening. My suspicion is that even the government employees (at least the high level ones) are aware of what is happening at the factory, but choose to ignore the issue, in favor perhaps, of the general economic wellness of China.
This brings to the point of the opposing argument, that the sweatshop industries are helping both the country as a whole and even the workers whose children will have a better chance due to the sacrifice of their parents. The situation, however dire it may seem, is seen as better than life working the rice paddies, and time, worker conditions will improve. My opinion is that the truth is somewhere in the middle-it would be counterproductive even to the Chinese workers to force companies to adopt the exact work practices that are followed in the United States, to the point where corporations will simply choose to relocate in another country. On the other hand, it has been showed, even by Apple’s internal reports, that applying more pressure on corporations to improve their practices will show results and that as consumers and authorities become more and more aware of the issues, regulations and customer demand will lead to improved conditions for the workers.
After listening to the Mike Daisey’s story of visiting the factories in China, I had a similar reaction to the one he explained at the beginning of his talk: I have never thought in a dedicated way how the technology I use is physically made. Just the fact that I had never even heard of the city of Shenzhen (I had to google how to spell it correctly) really made me realize how little I knew or thought about how my iPhone and laptop were put together.
I feel that sweatshops are things that everyone knows exist, but just tuck away in the back of their minds so they are not forced to feel bad about using all of their gadgets. I know that is what I have done in the past. But the truth is hard to ignore after listening to Mike list all of the terrors he witnessed while in Shenzhen. The number of suicides, lack of job rotation, long hours, and low pay are all issues that need to be addressed in some way. The problem lies in the fact of what to do to address them? As much as we would like to see the huge corporations step up and refuse to use sweatshops, it would most likely just lead to different companies taking their place and swallowing up the first corporations with their cheap labor.
I think the key lies in the workers themselves stepping up for their own rights and it seems like they are beginning to do just that. With a 10-20% turnover rate per month that these factories are seeing, at some point it should become more economical to increase wages and change conditions to keep workers for longer periods of time. As long as there are slews of willing workers to step in and work inhuman hours, these factories have no incentive to change their ways. If the workers in China continue to stand up for themselves and refuse to work under these conditions, hopefully the factories will be forced to increase wages and better conditions, which seems to be starting to happen now.
As someone who just recently read George Orwell’s 1984, this blog prompt really struck home for me. Living in a society where we have absolutely no choice in how we lead our lives seems unrealistic and far-fetched, which is exactly what the 1984 Apple Macintosh ad is trying to portray. It’s as if the woman running to destroy the giant teleprompter is society’s freedom from the controlling power of “Big Brother”, just as Apple hopes their new computer technology will give people to change from the norm and lead individual lives. But is it so unbelievable in this day and age that there are still people who live in a world where their voice is not heard, and their decisions are made for them? This is the point that Mike Daisey dissects in his talk about Apple factories in China and how disturbing the reality is behind our beloved tech-toys. Continue reading 2014 or 1984?