….that would require someone to care.
The sheer enormity of the experience working in the factory zone is incomprehensible to me. The claim that cafeterias exist to even serve 10,000 people, (let alone they only seat a couple THOUSAND), is just a little too close to Big Brother control for comfort. When was the last time you had lunch with a couple hundred of your closest friends? Thousands of people have lost their subjectivity to become a cog in the machine. And not just a couple people here and there, but literal thousands of people. Nameless, faceless, laborers working mindless 16 Chinese-hour shifts.
Do you really think Apple doesn’t know?
Even as a business major, I sometimes forget that people are still required to make stuff. I picture completely automated factories just churning out iPhones, with maybe a few workers on hand just to make sure everything runs smoothly. Who knew the many thousands of people that are required to make just this singular product. And that they are working relentless hours doing mind numbingly simple tasks, over and over. In my political science class, we talked about how a majority of the world lives on the ‘cross diagonal’ from China to South America. I’m having a minor existential crisis over here trying to wrap my mind around all of the people who live on this earth- and how many nameless people in that cross diagonal work in Factory Zones.
With all of the people affected by this system, why hasn’t anything changed? It’s a simple enough question. Like when Mike Daisy asked the workers what changes they would make, and it had never even crossed their minds that change was an option. How is that even possible? I am reminded of the privileges afforded to me as an American citizen to question those in authority. We, the everyday users of Apple products, only enter into the system as consumers, buying phones from chic modern Apple stores in America. As citizens of a capitalism society, we are not taught to question the supply chain. Because each and every willing customer of Apple knows deep down that asking questions will lead to answers we don’t want to hear. Statements like, “Now I’ve cleaned it twice” that prick at our guilt and cause us to question the morality of owning and using the products.
It never even crossed my mind that Apple would know. Apple is great. I love Apple and I love my Mac and my iPhone. Apple is perfection to a fault. However, it is becoming clear that perfection is a fault- when you tie it to achieving it by any means necessary. My jaw actually dropped when I listened to the part of the podcast where the Daisy explains that the cleaning alcohol was replaced with a POTENT NEUROTOXIN because it sped up the process. And that there is an easy fix to just rotate people out of this job to avoid the damage (which I am skeptical about, but it would be an improvement). Let’s just think about this for a quick second: someone somewhere in management made a deliberate, and- I assume -informed, decision to start using a new cleaning chemical, despite the fact that it is will cause serious damaged to those who use it. All to beef up the bottom line. Apple sell’s itself as a company that does it right. It gives off an air of environmental and social responsibility, while on the ground factory conditions scream otherwise. And the scary part is that Apple knows exactly what it’s doing.
This blog, despite being mostly shocked and angry at Apple, isn’t a call to arms. I’m typing this on my MacBook Pro. My iPhone is sitting on the table next to me. I’m not going to stop using my phone or computer. Does that make me a bad person? Maybe. At the end of the podcast, someone questioned the idea that “sweatshops are bad, but we should feel okay about it”. Am I complicit in supporting sweatshops? Unfortunately, yes. Because it’s really hard to not buy into them. Your most every possession is made in China or a place like it. It’s true that I could just go out of my way to buy fair trade products for everything in my life. But that’s missing the point. This is a huge, system wide problem that won’t be solved on an individual level. Apple has to step in. Get other companies on board. Make changes. Enforce the changes. And I’ll still have an iPhone at the end of the day.
According only 32% of the companies they audited complied with the standards about labor laws.
Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Sweatshops are bad, but we should feel okay about it