By now, the story of Mike Daisey is well-known to our class. The praises of his performance and the subsequent challenge to his credibility have been widely reported, yet Daisey’s goal of raising awareness about the issues at Foxconn has been achieved. However, the dissent over who to blame for the continued mistreatment of workers seems regrettably familiar, as individuals and organizations still take various sides. Society sways back and forth between who to blame for the inexcusable working conditions in Foxconn factories. Is it Apple and Foxconn’s fault, or is it the consumers fault? Do Apple and Foxconn need to raise working condition standards and strengthen social responsibility efforts, or do consumers need to engage in civil disobedience campaigns and refrain from purchasing Apple’s products?
“Aye, there’s the rub,” reflects Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Although Hamlet’s words represent his decision to live or die, they address conflict in his mind, and his words apply to the conflict faced by society today. Society and media spend more time blaming different groups and organizations than they do encouraging action, mandating change, and bettering lives. This is the problem. This is our problem. I argue that neither the pairing of Apple and Foxconn nor the consumer can hold absolute blame and that both must unite to ameliorate the situation in Shenzhen. However, Apple has made a catalog of decisions that make them a viable candidate for blame. Despite massive auditing efforts in the United States and abroad, Apple, by its own admission, states that half of its factories and manufacturing plants violate some form of regulations. Even if Apple is trying to resolve the issue of working conditions, drastic improvements are not evident.
Could this be a result of a corporate strategy that is too focused on shareholder theory? Apple meticulously attends to its shareholders. Recently, Apple announced a 7-1 split in its stock. Why did Apple do this? According to Apple’s investor relations website page, Apple decided to split its stock because, “We want Apple stock to be more accessible to a larger number of investors.” This decision suggests that Apple has investors in mind, and augments the divide between Apple’s perceived value of its shareholders and its stakeholders – who include Foxconn workers.
Mr. Alex Lyras, the Bucknell alum who eloquently portrayed Mike Daisey in Bucknell’s version of the performance, suggests that Apple’s CEO Tim Cook should give 1% of the $100,000,000 that Apple has in reserves to its workers. Would such an act benefit Foxconn workers? It certainly would benefit them more than splitting Apple’s stock 7 ways to increase the number of Apple’s investors.