No Need To Be Conflicted About Your Apple Toys

Punch Debt in the Face wrote a post about his conflicting feelings towards Apple products after his awareness of the conditions under which these products were manufactured, courtesy of Mike Daisey.

I started writing a comment, but it developed into a full post, so I decided to post it on this blog instead.

I respect Daisey’s actions in trying to get Apple and its Western cohorts to take responsibility and act to improve the situation. However, the fact is that it takes two to tango, and China and the Chinese people are the ones who have the real power to make a difference. It’s their lives after all.

The company in question, Foxconn, can be considered one of the better employers in China, with some of the best employee infrastructure in place. Despite the slew of suicides, there were others waiting around just to take the places of those who are gone. Why? Because what they get at Foxconn is better than everything else that is available to them back in their hometowns.

As long as the workers need the company more than the company needs them, and as long as there are workers willing to work under those conditions, companies have no incentive to provide better. That is, unless the workers exercise their collective powers. There are several hundreds of thousands of them, aren’t there?

Why should the Daisey and Co. be so surprised, or scandalized? Didn’t the same happen during the industrialization era in the West, giving impetus to the formation of unions and the formalization of labour laws to drastically improve working conditions?

What is happening in China seems to be history repeating itself, albeit in a different geographical location. And ultimately, the Chinese people must be the ones to act for themselves, like their Western counterparts have done in historical times.

Recent reports have indicated that the demand for workers have outstripped supply in China due to the rapid growth of manufacturing. Many companies have had to increase wages and improve working conditions to attract and retain the dwindling supply of workers. Power is moving into the hands of the workers. Things may be off to a slow start, but it appears that the situation is beginning to change.

Therefore, in my opinion, Apple fans need not be in a hurry to discard their toys to show their solidarity with the Chinese workers. It is not an Apple issue, nor a Foxconn issue. It is a China issue.

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