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Labor Activist: Apple May Be Terrible, But All Others Are Worse

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the best-of-the-worst dept.

China 218

CheerfulMacFanboy writes "Labor Activist Li Qiang wants you to know that the iPhone 4 in his pocket is not an endorsement of Apple's policies, just an acknowledgment that the company is doing a better job of monitoring factory conditions than its peers. The founder of leading advocacy group China Labor Watch (CLW) told us that, though the Cupertino company does more-thorough inspections than competitors, it is responsible for poor working conditions at its suppliers' factories and needs to invest some of its record-breaking profits in improving them. 'Although I know that the iPhone 4 is made at sweat shop factories in China, I still think that this is the only choice, because Apple is actually one of the best. Actually before I made a decision, I compared Apple with other cell phone companies, such as Nokia,' he said through a translator. 'And the conditions in those factories are worse than the ones of Apple.'"

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218 comments

Interesting headline change (4, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973131)

Interesting how the original headline reads "Apple Best at Auditing Factories, Still Not Doing Enough" while Slashdot's reads "Apple May Be Terrible, But All Others Are Worse". From best to terrible in the flash of a Slashdot submission.

I don't get why Apple is always the one intimately associated with Foxconn when, as the largest electronics manufacturer in the world, Foxconn builds products for Dell, HP, Sony, Motorola, Nintendo, Microsoft, and so on. That Apple is the most proactive about labor policies isn't a surprise given the company's left-wing political leanings. You can always say someone should be doing more, but one can't help but wonder at what point it becomes the responsibility of the native government to make its citizen's lives better rather than the companies in another country sending the build orders. If Apple and other companies did what Li Qiang suggests, they'd essentially be babysitting the entire world's industrial labor, and that's just an impossible slippery slope. However, the storyline of a glossy, profitable American company using "slave labor" is just too juicy a narrative for the mainstream media to pass up.

Re:Interesting headline change (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973199)

The Slashdot title seems more objective to me. It does not suggest a specific action, it reports on how things are.

Re:Interesting headline change (2, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973973)

I'm not convinced.

"Apple Best at Auditing Factories, Still Not Doing Enough" - I interpret that to mean that Apple should lift its game and improve, not act like it's blameless.

"Apple May Be Terrible, But All Others Are Worse" - I interpret that to mean leave Apple alone and blame other companies first.

Re:Interesting headline change (-1, Offtopic)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973211)

Yes - helping other people is "an impossible slippery slope" indeed! Someone might actually start caring more about people than their profit margin! That must horrify you, as someone who's opinion of a product is based on who is paying you right now.

Re:Interesting headline change (0, Troll)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973275)

Yes - helping other people is "an impossible slippery slope" indeed!

Trying to police the entire world is impossible. In fact, it's what gets us into trouble in the first place. More pressure should be placed on the Chinese government, since it is ultimately their responsibility to improve the lives of their citizens. I believe Apple and other companies do as much as can reasonably be done as foreign private entities, but since electronics factories like Foxconn are the biggest in the world, there really isn't any other place to go that can match supply.

Re:Interesting headline change (4, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973349)

"Trying to police the whole world" is vastly different from making sure that you have an ethical supply chain. Hell, Americans have, in the last two decades, stopped complaining that these people, in the past, would've been direct Apple employees. Now, not only are they not employees, but they're treated like dogs. (Actually, I treat my dog better). There is no excuse for Apple and other companies to allow this kind of stuff to happen. It's not a secret, and there's plenty that they could do about it, if they wanted to.

Re:Interesting headline change (2)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973501)

I believe Apple and other companies do as much as can reasonably be done as foreign private entities

The thing is that they aren't just equal.

  • Cisco actively developed systems for the great firewall of China and is thereby complicit in censorship and torture
  • Microsoft cooperates to the level required by Chinese law including compromising many things to get more buisness there
  • Apple hasn't compromised that much but definitely deliberately goes to cheaper more "flexible" places at cost of labor protection
  • Google has even gone up against censorship and been forced to withdraw
  • Other companies have deliberately avoided China for moral reasons.

Lots of the corporates that would end up high in that list want us to just ignore these differences. By buying and supporting companies low in that list you gently but effectively push for change. Wherever in the world Apple chooses to make iPhones and iPads will quickly become one of the "biggest in the world" so what they choose to do or not do makes a big difference. If put pressure on them for being bad or support them for being good instead of just ignoring the issue that makes a big difference to what they will end up doing.

The same goes for where you work. If you are good at your job and work for Microsoft or Cisco you should seriously consider changing company. By continuing there you are inevitably making the world a worse place even if your own individual contribution seems good. If you work for Apple or Google then try work for change from within. If you work at the better companies then do everything you can to help them succeed.

Just a little bit of pretty painless moral choice makes a big difference.

Re:Interesting headline change (1)

wrencherd (865833) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974551)

Apple hasn't compromised that much but definitely deliberately goes to cheaper more "flexible" places at cost of labor protection

That was basically what we were all told back in the 1990's was Michael Dell's "stroke of business genius".

Even if Dell Computer, Apple and the rest now made "moral choice" an imperative in their industry, wouldn't that be asking everyone who might want to get into that business to work with constraints imposed by competitors who now dominate the market basically because they never faced those same constraints?

That's like North Americans trying to force South Americans not to clear-cut the rain forest as a matter of environmental concerns even though a large part of our economy was built on the very same practice.

Sauce for the goose.

Re:Interesting headline change (3, Insightful)

dangitman (862676) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973545)

More pressure should be placed on the Chinese government, since it is ultimately their responsibility to improve the lives of their citizens.

While it's true that the Chinese government needs to take its share of responsibility, don't the citizens of China also have responsibility in improving their lives?

Imagine if the same were said about America. The American government should be responsible for improving the lives of citizens? In "the land of the free," shouldn't that responsibility lie in the hands of the citizens themselves, while government should just get out of the way?

I'm pretty sure there would be an outcry about how the government shouldn't be managing people's lives.

Re:Interesting headline change (3, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973693)

Imagine if the same were said about America. The American government should be responsible for improving the lives of citizens? In "the land of the free," shouldn't that responsibility lie in the hands of the citizens themselves, while government should just get out of the way?

Yeah, land of the free, blah blah blah. The world is not a magical Ayn Randian fantasy land. People and companies CANNOT be trusted to act ethically, which is why we have basic labor laws. I know it's over used, but Somalia is a great example of the government "getting out of the way".

Re:Interesting headline change (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973755)

Yeah, land of the free, blah blah blah. The world is not a magical Ayn Randian fantasy land. People and companies CANNOT be trusted to act ethically, which is why we have basic labor laws. I know it's over used, but Somalia is a great example of the government "getting out of the way"

Indeed, have you seen the explosive growth of their telecoms industry without government getting in the way, its remarkable what a lack of government can accomplish in such a short time.

Re:Interesting headline change (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38974215)

Yes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somalia

Re:Interesting headline change (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974193)

Yeah, land of the free, blah blah blah. The world is not a magical Ayn Randian fantasy land.

Yes. That was my point. That people in America, who believe in this Randian fantasy land, demonize the Chinese government for failing their citizens up, while simultaneously screaming for less government intervention.

Did you entirely miss my fairly obvious subtext?

Re:Interesting headline change (4, Insightful)

Sancho (17056) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974135)

China takes the opposite approach--criminalizing workers forming or joining a union.

But as DogDude says, absent regulation, companies and people don't tend to act ethically. Hell, nearly every regulation on the books is the result of a real problem. Look at labor in the industrial revolution. That's how companies act when there is no regulation.

Re:Interesting headline change (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38974175)

More pressure should be placed on the Chinese government, since it is ultimately their responsibility to improve the lives of their citizens.

While it's true that the Chinese government needs to take its share of responsibility, don't the citizens of China also have responsibility in improving their lives?

Imagine if the same were said about America. The American government should be responsible for improving the lives of citizens? In "the land of the free," shouldn't that responsibility lie in the hands of the citizens themselves, while government should just get out of the way?

I'm pretty sure there would be an outcry about how the government shouldn't be managing people's lives.

No, that's what labor unions were originally for.

Re:Interesting headline change (2)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974515)

When the government willfully and encouragingly allows companies to not pay millions in taxes and gives them discounts for shipping jobs overseas, yes, it is the government's responsibility to help the citizens.

How is one citizen going to attack a huge multinational corporation on their peasant's salary(compared to the execs and lawyers of Giantcorp)? How do citizens have any chance to succeed when the government just takes from them and gives it to the already-rich right and left? When the government just takes the highest bribes and does what they say?

At some point, the availability of quality, meaningful work has to be up to the government that presides over its regulation.

Re:Interesting headline change (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973217)

LOL fanboy.

Re:Interesting headline change (1)

Kartu (1490911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973219)

Maybe because "Nokia and some unnamed phone manufacturers have worse condition than Apple" and "Apple has the best condition" are, in fact, two very different statements?

Re:Interesting headline change (1)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973245)

Earlier today we had "money sucking leeches" in a summary, and yesterday a quote was called "bull****" in a summary.

Slashdot is becoming pretty cartoonish.

Re:Interesting headline change (1, Offtopic)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973311)

Haters don't go to websites to learn. They go to have people tell them they're superior for being haters.

Haters have a far more serious problem with truth than "fanboys". I simply equate "hater" with "pathological liar".

Re:Interesting headline change (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973609)

You must be new here.

Re:Interesting headline change (3, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974295)

Slashdot is becoming pretty cartoonish.

Becoming? The sad thing is that Slashdot's increasing cartoonishness seems to be a reflection of a large subset of the readers.

The idea seems to be that Apple is cheating all those workers out of the perfect utopian lives they'd have if only Apple loved them.

Re:Interesting headline change (2, Informative)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973293)

I call shenanigans. Do you really think a legitimate labor union would be permitted to exist in China? This is just a PR shill speaking the party line.

Re:Interesting headline change (1)

dmbasso (1052166) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973905)

Yep, something along the lines "I'm paying the rapist, but because the murderer is worse". No, you should not be dealing with criminals in the first place.

[Message for the deeper-interpretation-impaired: this is just an exaggerated analogy to make the point clearer, I'm not saying anybody is a criminal.]

Re:Interesting headline change (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974153)

The computer you typed that comment on was almost certainly produced in those conditions.

Re:Interesting headline change (1)

dmbasso (1052166) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974441)

Indeed, I think you are correct. But then, as an individual that work with technology I don't have any choice (that I'm aware of... do you know any alternative?). But for a company that makes *billions of dollars* in fucking PROFITS, things are much different.

Delusional people may believe that free market and "voting with my money" can change things, but with companies with hundreds of billions of dollars in fat to burn and all of them with the same policies, nothing can ever change.

Re:Interesting headline change (0)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973383)

The other day I was cleaning the garage and ran across an old Packard Bell Motherboard. Stamped right on it... Foxconn!! They made all that old Packard Bell garbage! Think about that the next time you buy something made there!

Re:Interesting headline change (5, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973425)

The whole point is this:

Saying "others are worse, focus on them" when apple serves as the standard for quality over there (if they're saying they do the best), means that if apple is doing this badly, they should be setting the example for doing better. Everyone, including the "worst" should be raising bar. Just because others may be worse is not in any way, an excuse for apple.

How fucking hard is this to understand?

Because Apple users are high-fashion snots? (-1, Troll)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973465)

Or, at least, Apple users are seen that way.

Apple users tend to think of themselves as the types who would never wear animal furs. Apple users are ever-so-enlightened, humanitarian, environmentally aware, and ever-so-tasteful. So different than those dreadfully gauche Microsoft users.

Well Apple users, you support horrible slave labor. So maybe you could take your noses out of the air, just a little?

Re:Because Apple users are high-fashion snots? (4, Informative)

thestudio_bob (894258) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973667)

Apple users tend to think of themselves as the types who would never wear animal furs. Apple users are ever-so-enlightened, humanitarian, environmentally aware, and ever-so-tasteful.

I'm not sure if you've noticed or not, but there's a hell-of-a-lot of people using Apple products nowadays. My hunting, fishing, drinking, non-recycling and high school educated family members may take offense to your statement.

Re:Because Apple users are high-fashion snots? (0)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974141)

Your perception of Apple users says much, much more about you than it does about Apple users.

Re:Because Apple users are high-fashion snots? (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974283)

Apple is the 3rd largest phone manufacturer, not smart phone manufacturer, just phone manufacturer. Any sort of stereotype against them is just the same old stereotype spewed out by angry wintel nerds who hate anything remotely different to them.

Re:Interesting headline change (1)

CaptainLard (1902452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973653)

I don't get why Apple is always the one intimately associated with Foxconn when, as the largest electronics manufacturer in the world, Foxconn builds products for Dell, HP, Sony, Motorola, Nintendo, Microsoft, and so on.

I guess thats the price you pay when you have perhaps the greatest electronics brand name recognition in history. It doesn't help when you're always in the news for your record profits either. Of course, one could argue that those things may also have positive aspects for a corporation....

Re:Interesting headline change (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974307)

Companies, like Microsoft (who use Foxconn) aren't exactly poor. It's as you say their brand and placing Apple in your news story will grab far more attention than listing even 50 no-name brands that use foxconn or even factories with worse conditions.

Re:Interesting headline change (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974323)

I guess thats the price you pay when you have perhaps the greatest electronics brand name recognition in history. It doesn't help when you're always in the news for your record profits either. Of course, one could argue that those things may also have positive aspects for a corporation....

But nobody was writing front-page articles about Foxconn when Dell or HP or whoever were the top of the industry, and Apple was considered to be irrelevant.

I wonder why?

Re:Interesting headline change (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973683)

Apple is associated because they're selling the most products and gaining the most benefits from doing so. It's easiest and has the biggest impact to list the largest and most influential company. It doesn't help that Apple shot themselves in the foot by celebrating their "Made in America" brand for so many years. From being made in the greatest of working conditions, to being made in the worst.

As one who advocates against sweat shop labor, I find it equally deplorable of any company that uses these Chinese manufacturers to build their products. However, by list Apple, it shows just who is capable. In this case, it's the hip and trendy company with the cult like following who proclaim the dominance of Apple products. It's good to know how Apple is able to dominate the market and make such huge profits!

It's also good to note how people are shelling out $200+ for these phones, which are manufactured completely outside of the US, while the company has raked in $100 billion to its bank account. The CEO is pulling down a $400 million pay year for his first year on the job as CEO. I think I read it cost about $100 to manufacture one of these phones, so that's money donated directly to China. I assume most of that goes to raw supplies and management, while the workers are making $1 an hour and living in crap conditions. This is the item of the future. The process of building and selling it is taking money from the hands of the many, and giving the majority of that money to the hands of the few.

Re:Interesting headline change (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973855)

Edit: I believe the price to manufacture is something like 50% the MSRP of the phone. I forgot that the phones are subsidized by the carrier, so while the customer is paying $200, Apple is probably making closer to $600+ for each phone sold. So that would be ~$300 going to China?

Re:Interesting headline change (4, Funny)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974009)

I think I read it cost about $100 to manufacture one of these phones,

No, it costs a lot more than that to make an iPhone. But what does the EE Times know [eetimes.com] , right? And that's just the cost of the physical components. Good thing for your argument that R&D, shipping, marketing, software, and all that stuff that isn't something you physically hold in your hand are free, right?

Re:Interesting headline change (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974335)

greatest of working conditions, to being made in the worst.

Having worked in factories over summer breaks I can certainly say the conditions are better than china but let's not pretend working in a factory anywhere should ever be associated with the word great.

Re:Interesting headline change (2)

phorm (591458) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974133)

Two things come to mind:

a) They make the biggest profit margin from their devices (indicating they could afford to spend more on addressing the conditions of employees)
b) They're the most visible (people know who apple is and their "image" appears to be important to them)
c) They're one of more capable of push-back on the factories to fix issues (due to their size)

Wow, that's what passes for best these days (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973133)

We've become so used to the idea that ALL consumer electronics are made in sweatshops that we're down to comparing whose sweatshop is the *least* nightmarish? That's more than a little sad, no?

Wouldn't it be nice to have just one consumer electronics manufacturer that made all their stuff in the first-world and paid their workers decent wages? It might be nice to have at least one TV, DVD player and cellphone option that I didn't have to feel guilty about. I'm getting a little sick of thinking of how many third-world people had to be exploited just so I could get a 52" LCD for $1,500 instead of $1,700. I mean saving the $200 is nice, admittedly, but not at the expense of dumping mercury into some Chinese town's river water, or working some 12-year-old for 16 hour days.

Couldn't countries at least require that imported goods be manufactured at their own minimum wage?

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973177)

The WTO guidelines are quite clear: it is illegal to discriminate against a product based upon the country of origin, or their lack of labor laws or health & safety standards. Enjoy your NWO...

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (2)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973367)

I'm no expert in international trade agreements, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that's not exactly how it reads.

I've been wrong plenty of times before though, and don't mind admitting it... so feel free to cite.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (1)

MimeticLie (1866406) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974349)

You might think so, until you read how the WTO has ruled on these things in the past. A quote: [wto.org]

In other words, the United States bans imports of shrimp or shrimp products from any country not meeting certain policy conditions. We finally note that previous panels have considered similar measures restricting imports to be ‘prohibitions or restrictions’ within the meaning of Article XI.(599)”(600)

Basically, regulating based on policy conditions (nets that don't kill sea turtles in the example above, workers' wages in the case we're talking about) is considered a prohibition or restriction. Under WTO rules, you can't place a prohibition or restriction on trade from another WTO nation. Ain't free trade grand?

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (1)

kj_kabaje (1241696) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973181)

So what you're saying is you want a dolphin-safe television?

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (2, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973231)

They could even slap a "No 13-year-olds were ripped out of school to make this piece of shit for a little cheaper" sticker on it.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973689)

Yep. Only kids 12 and under worked on this item - they are cheaper than the 13 year olds.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (0, Troll)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973187)

We've become so used to the idea that ALL consumer electronics are made in sweatshops that we're down to comparing whose sweatshop is the *least* nightmarish? That's more than a little sad, no?

Foxconn is so "nightmarish" that thousands lined up to work there [wowmobi.net] . That's not to say that conditions can't always be improved, but it's hardly some drastic human rights violation. A lot of its violations are managerial abuses and overtime exploitation, making it not unlike Walmart.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (1, Interesting)

plopez (54068) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973269)

Huh? Being restrained against your will, e.g. no bathroom breaks, is not a human rights violation? People need sleep, sleep deprivation, e.g., 36 hours without sleep, is sometimes used as an instrument of torture. People will sell themselves (or others) into slavery if they are desperate enough. That doesn't make slavery right or less nightmarish.

To me it sounds like you are an apologist.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (2, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973351)

SACOM (Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour) visited Foxconn [pcmag.com] and said that the biggest gripe from employees was money, and they also grumbled that overtime was sometimes forced upon them. Other concerns included exposure to dust at a construction site. Employees are allowed bathroom breaks each day, though managers did encourage them to work through their breaks. You make it sound like some torture dungeon, and it's just not. It's a typical grueling Chinese factory, but it's one of the least bad.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973479)

And so, if Apple actually employed these people (as a responsible company would), it'd still be just fine and dandy for employees to have to ask to go to the bathroom? Somehow, I doubt that happens in Cupertino...

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973673)

You never worked for Steve did you?

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973585)

Which is why Foxconn has a huge problem with employee suicide.... sure. Continue to drink the kool-aid, my friend...

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973809)

You mean that same statistic that's less than you see in the general population?

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973827)

Per capita, FoxConn has a lower suicide rate than the rest of China.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (2, Insightful)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973417)

NPR did an excellent spot [thisamericanlife.org] on the foxconn factory. There are some shocking aspects to the factory conditions, but this is not slave labor. Please don't confuse slave labor with voluntary labor under horrible conditions by poor and desperate workers in China. Even liberal economists agree that these (terrible) jobs do result in improvements for the inhabitants of China. The alternative is no work -- or the rice paddy. If you are going to make assertions that people are being enslaved and tortured against their will, you have to at least back it up with some sources.

And NO I'm not a Mac fanboy. My phone is Android. My primary desktop is Ubuntu and Windows. I do not own an iPhone or iPad.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973691)

if you are desperate you have no choices.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (1)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974341)

if you are desperate you have no choices.

Yep, and that sucks for you.

China's problem is the same one faced by American workers. If labor organizes or if if the government somehow implements mandatory higher living standards, then the jobs are sent abroad to Vietnam or Thailand (or Cambodia or Laos or India) because the people there are willing to work for even less. If that happens, then it's starvation or the rice paddy for the locals. Or, in the US, it means working at McDonald's. This is the dark side of the story behind the efficiency of capitalism. There's usually someone worse off willing to work for less. Capitalism will ultimately find them and put them to work. And why shouldn't they be allowed to work?

Having listened to that NPR segment, I felt a sensation of horror hearing about the working conditions. My mind boggled that people would voluntarily agree to such conditions and I thought for a moment that surely it could be fixed. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Only the folks buying the labor can mandate better conditions, but they face the same problems as the Chinese. Your price goes up (or your profits come down) and people stop buying your product. Your product fizzles and you and all of your employees are out of work. The drive toward efficiency and cost cutting is the very essence of a free market. They are utterly inextricable. The only way that things can change is if the market (meaning YOU -- but not just you, everyone else too) decides that the market wants to pay more so those poor Chinese bastards can live a little better. You might think that Apple, who hires and purchases the efforts of these workers, is the bad guy with the money that is unwilling to share its money with these poor people. In a sense, that's true, but it's only part of the story. Apple gets its money from its customers. Are Apple's customers willing to pay more for their IStuff? Probably not.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973343)

That a job a Foxconn is desirable only means that other jobs are less desirable, and in the context of this article that means nothing.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973489)

I actually worked a similar type of job here in the U.S. and I don't think nightmarish is at all an exaggeration. Basically, my aunt and uncle owned a small plastic molding factory, and had always offered jobs to anyone in the family if they wanted one. My brothers and I all worked there in high school, and while everyone else working there was over 18 and had slightly decent jobs like cutting molds or monitoring the presses, it was up to us to do the quality assurance work. This basically amounted to checking every single little plastic part that came out of the press, since for some reason or other they rarely produced good parts 100% of the time, or even 80%. My job was sitting down and looking at the exact same little part for six hours a day making sure it had no flaws. It was maddening. Truly, some of the worst experiences of my life. You just see the same thing over and over, you talk to nobody, you just grab parts, check them, sometimes assemble multiple parts into a bigger part, and put it in a bin.

Anyway, getting to back to the foxconn workers. I have seen some of the videos of these people working, and it looks awfully similar to what I was doing. Except I actually made decent pay ($10/hr as a high school student was not bad years ago), only worked 6 hours a day, got to drive to and from work, could take any days I wanted off, got to play around in the factor and watch how the whole engineering process worked, even got to man the presses and do other stuff. EVEN THEN, with all those perks, it was still a nightmarish job. The Foxconn employees have none of these benefits. They are forced into overcrowded dorms, work shift lengths unheard of in the U.S., and have almost no freedom to do as they please. I am honestly surprised the suicide rate there is not MUCH higher.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (1)

RoknrolZombie (2504888) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974231)

Well, that's what conditions are apparently like in China: Their *BEST* working conditions are "nightmarish" to those of us in a country where we used to have rights. Like many others, I wish there were some recourse for those of use that *do* give a shit, but really, what is there for us to do? Boycott? Yeah...good luck with that - you'd be running around naked sleeping on the streets if you wanted to boycott China.

As has been mentioned already, it seems like the better solution would be to accept slightly higher prices for our goods in exchange for some consideration of the lives of the assemblers. Unfortunately, since all of the companies that we do business with are determined to kill manufacturing in our own country we're kind of stuck either "not having" (which is a problem for those of us that rely on technology to do our jobs) or feeling like we're contributing to the problem.

It'd be nice if we could push (yet another) boycott, but in this particular instance it would be like boycotting people: YOU might be effective, but quite literally nobody else will notice.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973281)

Agree, but the fact is that American manufacturing and education infrastructure is screwed. Our beloved corporations and bought off politicians have seen to it that money (capital) on the wire (without national boundaries) is fungible. Just send production to where the workers get the least. when China gets too expensive, Apple will move o, and so will the others.

It's a sad commentary on a once-great nation. That said, we are a gritty people and we can come back to be happier people if we start to take care of one another, instead of making material success and profit the centerpiece of our existence. We need to seriously reform K20 education and make it more accessible. We need to get money out of politics so that we can have transparent policy initiatives that help ALL Americans, not just those who buy policy makers. We can do it.

In the meantime, we should do everything we can to bring back parts of production to America, instead of giving the immoral and barbarian Chinese leadership more power, including the power of kickbacks they get from all that slave labor. Seriously, Chinese leadership is an oxymoron; they are criminal psychopaths of the first order, period

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (1)

Lemming Mark (849014) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973469)

Yes - this! Actually, I'm not bothered about money staying in my own country or region so long as I know it's eventually going to people who play fair with their workforce. We've had a Fairtrade movement for things like coffee and chocolate - and it's starting to become more mainstream for things like clothing. But it's *very* difficult to find anything technology-wise that has any such guarantees.

I bought a cute little webcam from these guys: http://www.unitedpepper.org/ [unitedpepper.org] because they claimed to make it under fair trade-type conditions. It's maybe not the most technically sophisticated but it's a nice little thing and I really wanted to support a company that was trying to make a positive change.

Either way, I've got the money and I'd pay any reasonable premium for an ethically manufactured product, possibly a quite significant premium as long as they didn't make a shoddy device to cut costs elsewhere. But the industry currently isn't giving me the chance to give them that extra money, which seems a great shame.

I do make a point of researching welfare conditions before buying electronics and I often also write to companies before buying Far East manufactured goods. Often they don't respond - but at least they see some public interest. Plus I know that the ones who do get back to me with useful information are worth giving money to.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (3, Interesting)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973549)

The short answer is no to both. You couldn't actually manufacture most of the components for electronic equipment in the civilized world any more, because the whole supply chains are in china, and your price would skyrocket because the difference in labour costs is a factor of 20 or so. Sure, when you talk about foxconn assembly that's a small portion of the total cost of an iPhone, but if you talk about every component doing that, it would be a nightmare.

Second of all, the point of free trade is to drive costs up in other countries, that necessarily means they will have a competitive advantage for a while, but in the long run they will be a market. Does anyone think anyone making 50 cents an hour as a labourer in the 3rd world will ever buy a 500 dollar phone? Right, they can't. Ever. They're lucky to have clean drinking water. So if you ever want to sell them cars, computers, phones, airplanes or whatever they need to earn more money.

What will have to happen is that labourers in china will stop working for a pittance and start demanding a lot more money, that might mean mass strikes or it might mean an honest effort to pay people more money. That's a long process though. But, it's what happened in Japan, Italy, Taiwan, Korea, to a lesser extent Germany and a few 'eastern bloc' countries, and I'm only talking about since the end of WW2. The problem is that right now at least in china, if a million workers go on strike there are a million more to replace them, and no union protection for the ones on strike. Oh and because they went on strike no one else will give them jobs ever either.

You may think it's bad to work a 12 year old kid for 16 hours a day. but 30 years ago he would never have gone to school, and been working 16 hours a day on a farm from the time he was able to contribute, and he might have still starved. At least in the factory there is a chance of his lifestyle improving and he probably won't starve. That doesn't make it good, or right, but the sad reality is that progress requires people shift from the fields to factories, and it's up to them and their country to demand they get treated fairly. We can complain all we want to china, but they have us by the balls, and both parties know it. If we demand they do anything they don't like, they claw back on something we need (be it rare earths or just 'lose' export licences for things people want). And in general in china they have been working very hard at least in the last 30 years to educate their youth, and to get them prepared to be modern knowledge workers etc. They train more engineers than in the US, (about the same per capita), and most of the advanced degrees in anything useful in the 'west' are going to foreigners, probably about a third of which are chinese. There's probably a lost generation or two there, of people who are going to be exploited because they have no education, no skills and no way to get those things. But a huge portion of chinese kids growing up today will grow up into education and work very much like we have in the west, if not exactly like in the west because they're hiring western teachers to teach western curriculum's. Progress isn't perfect, and it would be nice to do better, but on the scale of things china is doing a half decent job. Which is sort of the same commentary in the article about apple. It could be better, but it could be worse too. And they're doing all of those things because we're paying them 4 dollars a day to make a tv, rather than paying them nothing as subsistence farmers, or worse, what we actually did to china, which was drugging them up on opium for most of a century.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974531)

The short answer is no to both. You couldn't actually manufacture most of the components for electronic equipment in the civilized world any more, because the whole supply chains are in china, and your price would skyrocket because the difference in labour costs is a factor of 20 or so. Sure, when you talk about foxconn assembly that's a small portion of the total cost of an iPhone, but if you talk about every component doing that, it would be a nightmare.

It already is a nightmare. The difference is whether we live the "nightmare" of higher costs for gizmos, or the nightmare of using slave labor to keep those prices down.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973639)

apple is sexy, from the good part of town. that's why apple's dealings with foxconn are different than foxconn's dealing with the slums or ugly companies, and open to more scrutiny.

it's like celebrities. do you care how many underage thai girls are (if it were in the us) statutory raped in sex tourism? probably not. when your neighbor you look up to goes and does it, you care on a different level. apple is the company next door.

Re:Wow, that's what passes for best these days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973685)

"I'm getting a little sick of thinking of how many third-world people had to be exploited just so I could get a 52" LCD for $1,500 instead of $3,000.

There. Fixed.

Then go all the way (1)

joh (27088) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973801)

I mean saving the $200 is nice, admittedly, but not at the expense of dumping mercury into some Chinese town's river water, or working some 12-year-old for 16 hour days.

Extend this to food, clothes, oil, natural resources and everything else and you may find yourself in a position where you can't spare a penny to buy any smartphone or TV at all.

THIS would be honest. Nobody does that though, because then it would really, really start to hurt.

Re:Then go all the way (1)

Kartu (1490911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974407)

So 30 years ago we couldn't spare a penny to buy stuff, eh? Oh wait, we actually could.

iOS now has more marketshare than Android (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973283)

According to Reuters, Apple surpassed Android in marketshare [reuters.com] by the end of 2011, confirming earlier reports by both Nielsen [nielsen.com] and NPD [gigaom.com] . 150 Android smartphones couldn't beat the iPhone 4S. With 15 million iPads sold last quarter, the tablet market is now larger than the entire desktop PC market. Apple’s profits ($13 billion) exceeded Google’s entire revenue ($10.6 billion).

Who cares? Well, in January 2011, Slashdot triumphantly reported that Android surpassed iOS in marketshare [slashdot.org] . All year, Android fans cited Android's marketshare as proof that it was taking over the smartphone industry, that the lack of centralized control was superior to the "walled garden", and that Android was "winning".

So what happened when the opposite occurred and Apple reversed Android's marketshare lead by the end of the year? Despite multiple submissions from several users, and news coverage ranging from Arstechnica to CNN, Slashdot refused to publish the story. All the sudden, it wasn't considered newsworthy despite the publication of the other story a year earlier.

This is a Linux advocacy site whose initial userbase was driven by hatred of Windows marketshare. Marketshare is still highly fetishized around here. Anything negative about the marketshare of Linux, or platforms based on Linux, gets killed. Slashdot is intentionally not providing you full tech news coverage because it caters to a specific demographic of emotionally-invested users who are more likely to generate repeat page views.

Re:iOS now has more marketshare than Android (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973463)

Is the point that Apple has an obligation to treat their workers better because they are so much more successful than their competition?

The fact that Apple has the influence and profit margins that would enable them to provide good conditions for their workers and STILL post insanely great profits falls on deaf ears around here, but kudos for making that case.

Re:iOS now has more marketshare than Android (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973949)

I don't hear these same folks clamoring that Google should do the same thing. Google produces phones as well do they not? Samsung? HTC? Sony? *chirp*...*chirp*.

Easy to demand that someone use their own money to better worker conditions for a competing company. This is NOT something a US manufacturer can fix. The Chinese need to fix it themselves and right now they don't want to.

FUD in its finest. (1)

Kartu (1490911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974521)

FUD in its finest. 1) We are talking about US market, where Apple had about 25% of the market (vs about 15% worldwide) before 4S launch and Google was 50%+ 2) There is NO way you can go from 25% to 45% during one quarter in a mature market. Roughly every second android SOLD during that quarter IN US might have been iPhone, yes. 3) In Q4 Apple sold about 37 million smartphones, when Samsung sold about 35 million. Samsung alone is about 24% of the smartphone market Worldwide.

Apple was also quoted... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973443)

Apple was also quoted as saying they hate chinks and niggers less than their competitors.

Re:Apple was also quoted... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973551)

What about Apple's competitors who are chinks and niggers? How do they feel about them?

Proof please (1, Interesting)

kervin (64171) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973533)

Instead of just saying one company does better than the other, I think Mr. Li Qiang would be much more helpful to his cause if he actually published his findings and methodology.

Or are we suppose to simply believe him on his word?

Re:Proof please (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973563)

Me Chinese. Me play joke. Me put pee pee in your coke.

-Li Qiang

Re:Proof please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38974171)

"Methodology", huh. You heard that word and it sounded so sciencey that you decided to use it every chance you got, yes?

He's comparing only within China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973547)

So don't throw out your Samsung phone to support the "better" conditions at Apple's manufacturers. Samsung is not even considered in his comparison because they don't manufacture phones in China.

Assembly for less than the cost of a pick-n-place (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973575)

You can assemble PCBs for less than the amortization costs of a pick-n-place machine? Great! We'll have to take your word on the fact that the workers are getting a living wage.

Amorality is the Problem (1)

El Fantasmo (1057616) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973627)

A major problem is that the faceless structure of a company allows those who run it to make amoral decisions. Nearly all decisions are driven by profit and legality, not even the latter sometimes. Ethics and morals seem a bygone relic, impediments to "success."

People have to work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973709)

The conditions at Foxconn may be bad. But by staying with the company, the workers are telling us that the alternative for them is even worse... People, think for a moment, the employees at Foxconn work there because they, having considered their options, decided that thats the best they can find. When they can find a better job they'll leave their current one.

Note that I'm not saying that they enjoy their work; they may hate it. But bad working conditions do not equate to slavery or abuse. Think about how many millions of people would give anything to have a job at Foxconn, because what they have now is so much worse.

The solution.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973729)

...is a federalist, multi-party republican democracy in China. China is the reigning champion for now of fast and cheap. If companies want to be competitive, at least part of their supply chain is going to be in China. There would be no "supply chain" to speak of if everyone grew their own food, flax, and made their own pottery, but we live in a modern age. Companies cannot look over the shoulders of the vendors that they depend upon. US companies are no better positioned to do that than the US government is for obvious reasons. The way that the Chinese get labor and environmental protections that Americans enjoy is through a government that is accountable to activists and voters, not a corrupt one-party oligarchy in Beijing. But that won't happen until the Chinese make it happen.

Droid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973751)

What do I care I use droid.

Apple does improve Chinese lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973763)

I've heard they've removed the suicide nets from around the Foxconn dorms and added trampolines. So now the jumpers are actually flung back up to the roof.

Even Korean brands? (2)

Burz (138833) | more than 2 years ago | (#38973803)

I would have guessed that Korean brands like Samsung and LG still do a lot of manufacturing in Korea, under better conditions than what China usually has.

Re:Even Korean brands? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973847)

The article's title is very misleading in this regard.

It should read "Apple may be terrible, but other Chinese manufacturers worse".

Samsung is not even considered in the comparison because it's not made in China.

It's OK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38973851)

Suicide is just a style statement - the poor man's turtle neck sweater.

I call bullshit western propaganda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38974337)

Any video/image of Chinese factories I've seen are typically as modern as any in the world (otherwise your iPhone will be made in India if you want third world sweatshop).

And you just know that 99% of the detractors here are total hypocrites for decrying the Chinese while posting from Macbooks, iPod playing in the background, and talking on the iPhone (or Android, doesn't matter, they're all made in China).
If you're so incensed, I suggest you stop buying Chinese goods.

Wow. Apple has deep pockets. (2, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38974345)

Here's the best line from Li Qiang's statement:

Although I know that the iPhone 4 is made at sweat shop factories in China, I still think that this is the only choice, because Apple is actually one of the best.

So, the takeaway is that Apple runs the best sweatshops in China. The question I have, is this: Apple is now the richest and most valuable corporation in the world. If anyone is going to stand up and refuse to accept having their workers live and work in sweatshop conditions, and lead their industry to clean up its act, it ought to be them.

There are two possibilities here: Either Apple is putting cash in Li Qiang's pocket to say these things, or his comments were translated by Siri.

Apple was supposed to "Think Different", remember? How about all those full-page Apple ads with Ghandi, Cesar Chavez, Richard Feynman? You think those guys would feel comfortable with workers living 16 to a 12'x12' company-owned dormitory with surveillance cameras? How do you think Ghandi would feel about the working conditions at Foxconn? What do you think would happen if the next Cesar Chavez were to start talking to workers who build iPhones?

Here was the text of one of Apple's famous ads:

About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

There isn't fuck-all that's "inspirational" about the human cost of Apple's treatment of its workers (and yes, that's APPLE's treatment of workers. They're the ones whose products are being made.) It does not "push the human race forward" to make inhuman treatment of workers the industry standard. Every technology company on Earth wants to be like Apple. Apple sets the gold standard, right? So how many CEOs of competing companies are thinking right now, "If we're going to be as successful as Apple, we're going to have to treat our workers even worse!"?

As an Apple shareholder for more than 25 years, I believe that for one week, every shareholder, every board member, every officer, should have to trade places with someone who builds iPhones. I was finally completely divested last year, but I'd gladly be part of that field trip if it raised awareness of what Apple is currently doing. How they're making their money.

Fuck Apple. And yes, fuck every other company who profits from these labor practices. But since Apple is at the front of the line, fuck them first.

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