Who, Me? The Issue of Responsibility


After seeing multiple facets of Mike Daisey’s monologue about the conditions Foxconn and its relationship with Apple, we have all become very familiar with the story. Clearly, there is agony behind the ecstasy of Apple; the working conditions at the Chinese factory that produces many revered Apple products are poor and should be changed. The question is not if they should be changed, but rather who should institute this change.  The burden of facilitating change seems to be one that nobody wants to shoulder. Additionally, the issue seems to be one that nobody wants to claim as their responsibility. This entire controversy has boiled down to all of the players in this situation pointing fingers about who is truly culpable. It seems to me that there are three main players; Apple (and other technology companies), international law, and society. Society, which can be comprised of consumers, protestors, non governmental groups, performers like Mike Daisey etc. has been working hard to draw attention to this issue. Alex Lyras, at the end of Bucknell’s “un/real and un/true” performance, asked every audience member to contact Apple’s CEO to demand change. Workers at the factory and other citizens have been involved in numerous protests surrounding the subject. Yet what can they really do? Besides a full blown boycott of all goods produced at Foxconn, I cannot foresee society having a lasting impact on working conditions. Legally, they do not have the right to. Raising awareness and drawing attention to the situation has helped both Apple and the Chinese government focus on resolving this issue, which is a clear benefit, yet I do not think that society has the potential to do more than pressure the situation to change. So that leaves us to point fingers at both Apple and the law. Both have the power to change the situation at hand, yet nobody has done it yet. Why? Apple, on one hand, is a powerhouse company whose products are constantly in high demand. In order to keep up with consumer demand, Apple relies on factories like Foxconn to produce products in high quantities. Apple does their ‘best’ to regulate working conditions, but all in all they lay the blame on Foxconn and labor laws in China. Labor laws are different across the globe, and the relationship between Foxconn and Apple is a perfect example of this. Labor laws in China are not as strict as American policy, setting different standards for each country. Therefore, it is difficult for Apple, a company who relies on outsourcing, to find suppliers who will 100% comply with American standards for working conditions. In order to seriously enact change in the realm of factory life, I believe that international law must create new, higher standards for work. If standards are raised, factories will have no choice but to improve, if only marginally, to appear better. Once this change is set in stone, one can only hope that the conditions at Foxconn and factories all around the world will improve.

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6 responses to “Who, Me? The Issue of Responsibility

  1. I came to a similar conclusion to yours after thinking about who is responsible for the issues going on in China. I think that Apple feels they are doing all they can, so I agree, that more action needs to be taken by the Chinese government. Do you think that it is Apple’s (and other similar companies) responsibility to work with the Chinese government to fix these regulations? Or does the American government have a responsibility to urge China and help China make these changes? Just some questions that I began to think about when I came to the conclusion that China needs to do more. Personally, I think that Apple should work with the Chinese government to help make changes, but I don’t necessarily think the U.S. government has the grounds to step in to help.

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    • I don’t think that the U.S. government has the grounds to step in to help, either. Apple does have power though to only work with suppliers that treat their workers fairly. As Foxconn is in China, it is up to the Chinese government to establish laws that protect its workers. If the U.S. can do anything, it would be to require that American companies only outsource to suppliers that fit to a certain set of standards.

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    • I agree, I do not think that the US government has the ability to enact change in this situation. Ideally, governments across the globe would work together to create a common list of expectations for working conditions, but that does not seem like it will be on the agenda any time soon. Therefore, I think that it is up to Apple and the Chinese government to fix this problem. I do not know if there is a right answer; I could argue that Apple would be able to change the situation or I could argue that the Chinese government could step in and help. It is just a matter of how the two find the motivation to work together and solve the labor problem.

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  2. I agree with you about the fact the U.S government doesn’t have the grounds to step in and help out. It is solely up to Apple and the Chinese government to try and monitor the working conditions going on and unfortunately I do not see anything changing. When I listened to Steve Jobs answer questions about Foxconn it seemed like he did not really see this as a pressing issue for Apple. Concluding, I like what you said about making sure American companies only outsource to suppliers that fit a certain set of standards. It would be interesting to see if something like this could actually become a law.

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  3. “Society, which can be comprised of consumers, protestors, non governmental groups, performers like Mike Daisey etc. has been working hard to draw attention to this issue. “

    You say that no one wants to shoulder the blame or take action. However, isn’t drawing attention shouldering the burden?

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  4. In general, you are nicely describing in detail the more general problem of economic globalization without legal or governance globalization.

    To me, an issue worth asking and demanding change for is why this state of affairs persists. To have open and free trade with any country WITHOUT or BEFORE normalizing or standardizing wages, safety, environmental regulations is a choice made by politicians. And it is a choice that can be revised or altered. Not that it is easy, but it is certainly thinkable and doable.

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