“FoxConn is not a sweatshop” said Steve Jobs


I think that most can agree they were angry after finding out Mike Daisey’s story was made for the “theater”. I felt tricked and lied to. But after thinking about Daisey and watching the “un/real and un/true: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” take on Mike Daisey I began to ask myself some questions. 

Are these conditions real or not? Does Apple know about them? And if they do exist, how do we fix them? After watching an D8 interview with Steve Jobs in 2010 about FoxConn I was able to gage Apple’s stance towards FoxConn. Steve Jobs believes that “Apple does one of the best jobs of any companies in their industry of understanding the working conditions in our supply chain.” He admits there are suicides and terrible things happen, but “FoxConn is not a sweatshop”. Jobs feels that Apple does a good job in auditing their suppliers and making sure there are safe working conditions. So, if Apple doesn’t feel they are responsible for the poor working conditions how will they be fixed? Or do these conditions actually not exist?

FoxConn workers

Daisey was not the first to accuse Apple of having poor working conditions and he was definitely not the last. Just recently on September 4th, 2014, Shara Tibken chastised Apple for having “serious health and safety, environmental, and human rights violations.” With the current excitement over the iPhone 6, this is quite shocking. The violations were found in a factory in Suqian, China and its sister location in Taizhou, is currently producing the iPhone 6. Apple plans to investigate these concerns, but Apple still stands by Jobs’ statement made in 2010. Apple issues a Supplier Responsibility Progress Report every year and are proud of their suppliers. Their report in February 2014 discussed training their workers overseas, supporting a 60-hour work week, actively auditing there suppliers, and their recent launch of the Apple Supplier Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) Academy. I do believe that Apple is making huge efforts to fix these unsafe working conditions, and yet factories in Suqian still have violations. This makes me think that it is time for the Chinese government to step in.

There is only so much Apple can do. These factories are overseas so there are certain violations that are bound to slip through the cracks. Apple makes an effort to audit their suppliers, but there is a chance that the factories could be responsible for their violations and not just Apple. I truly don’t know if this is the case, but since it is possible the Chinese government should increase efforts to stop these health and labor violations from occurring as well. The Chinese government has a responsibility to protect their citizens and investigate their factories. If the Chinese government makes more of an effort to support safe working conditions in their factories this may help the issue. The Bucknell Forum brought up the fact that Chinese citizens, want and choose to work at FoxConn. People want factory jobs, so if people choose to deal with the poor working conditions it is because this is their best option. The other jobs available must be worse than FoxConn or their must not be any other jobs available. The Chinese government can help fix these two issues. China must make efforts to either create more job opportunities, or increase the factory regulations throughout China. None of these tasks are easy, but I do feel that Apple is not the only one who is responsible for fixing the issue of unsafe working conditions in their factories.

image from http://cdn1.appleinsider.com/foxconn-121016.jpg

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11 responses to ““FoxConn is not a sweatshop” said Steve Jobs

  1. I agree that there is significantly more China can do to improve the working conditions of it’s people. However, I am a lot more skeptical that Apple is really making meaningful changes. 60 hours a week is better than 80, but I still don’t consider it good. Reports can be helpful, but its easy for those writing them to turn a blind eye. If Apple is doing it’s best, do you think there should be more collaboration between them (companies in general) and the Chinese government? Or does change need to be initiated in other places as well?

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    • In reference to your question about collaboration between Apple, companies in general, and the Chinese government, I do think there needs to be collaboration. I understand that Apple could be turning a blind eye, but it seems that China may be doing the same. I think China and these companies need to work together to make regulations that will protect the Chinese factory workers. I know that factories like these are not only in China so other countries need to make similar efforts with these corporations as well.

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  2. It’s challenging for any company, including Apple, to engage in dialogue with the Chinese government. I imagine it’s more difficult than we think to have a discussion with members of the Chinese Communist Party. When Deng Xioaping became economic reforms in 1979, he (as did all of China) sacrificed many rights for the sake of the economy. The fruits of his labor are showing themselves today.

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    • I understand that it is a difficult task I am proposing but unfortunately this issue doesn’t seem like the easiest to solve. Apple claims they are ‘doing their best’ to fix the problem but still these issues in China exist. Apples best just isn’t cutting it. Do you think that there is a way to ease this challenge of communications between Apple and the Chinese government? Just an idea, but does the U.S. have a responsibility to talk to China about the American corporations that have factories there? I don’t know if the U.S. has the grounds to do this, but just simply another question to ask.

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  3. I think that part of the problem with the Daisey play is that while Apple’s manufacturing conditions may change, Daisey’s story does not. The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs was first performed 4 years ago, and while people are allowed to modify the story and change it the core themes of the play have remained the same in order to keep the emotion. While the play has not changed, Apple has in the mean time. Apple has owned up to the conditions, and if we believe them, has made changes (example article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/27/business/signs-of-changes-taking-hold-in-electronics-factories-in-china.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0). So to your main point, I agree with the question of whether or not these conditions are real and if they have been improved in the past few years.

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  4. I am in full agreement with you that the Chinese government should take action. However, how likely is this action? If Chinese citizens are willing to work at such a place, will the government be inclined to take action? Or do we need Apple or other forceful groups to step in? If Apple pushed their suppliers to meet improved company standards for working conditions, perhaps the Chinese government would be more inclined to make a change.

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  5. Snort.

    one of the best jobs of any companies in their industry of understanding the working conditions in our supply chain.

    Means nothing. “We understand people are horribly exploited with limited recourse.” A parent can say “I understand you will feel pain when i beat you.”

    Understanding IS NOT action.

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  6. A theme your post brings home is that for better or worse, normal citizens/consumers/watchers are left to sort through a tangle of competing facts and opinions about these stories, all produced by interested parties: Apple, Chinese government, Foxconn, activists, US politicians, and so on.

    Is this itself also part of the story? Of a change from “olden days?” (whenever those were…)

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  7. Here is a damning passage from the CNET article you found…

    said that it investigated the same Suqian factory in April 2013 and found many of the same violations. At the time, the group reported its findings to Apple privately. Apple conducted its own investigation, the group said, and vowed to fix the problems, especially those related to worker safety.

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