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Ask Slashdot: Tech Manufacturers With Better Labor Practices?

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

Businesses 375

First time accepted submitter srs5694 writes "In light of the recent flood of stories about abysmal labor practices at Foxconn and other Chinese factories that produce most of the tech products we consume, the question arises: Who makes motherboards, plug-in cards, cell phones, and other devices WITHOUT relying on labor practices that are just one rung above slave labor? If I want to buy a new tech gadget, from whom can I buy it without ethical qualms?"

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375 comments

Really? (5, Insightful)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055351)

Probably no one these days. Either components, or parts are made in china in some form or another. Even down to the base layer PCB. Though it's getting even worse than that, China is getting too "expensive" to operate in. And they're moving out to other 3rd world countries.

Re:Really? (1, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055635)

This question is so misguided, and will only end in hypocrisy.
If it really bothers the poster that much, simply go without the toy.

Re:Really? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055661)

I would have modded you up, except that your post had nothing at all to do with the post you replied to.

Re:Really? (3, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055821)

I think the larger question is, does.much of anyone in the first world even really give it a second thought?

Isn't this the.price they pay for.taking these.jobs.from us where it used to be done for a.living wage and fair.working conditions?

Re:Really? (4, Insightful)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055947)

That's a little naive. Fair living wages and working conditions are fairly recent. Don't you follow history?
Business moved where business could continue to work as it has for time immemorial.

Re:Really? (5, Informative)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056005)

Quite true. In fact, most people don't know that Europe started to mass-export their industry to North America in early 1800's, and literally built their society on the backs of children here. And they did so right up until the 1930's give or take a little bit. Though if you look further back, companies were exporting their industry as soon as people started landing here and started setting up shop. Hell, England was buying wagon wheels made in Canada, made by children, paid by levy in 1750.

Though let's not forget, it was this flagrant abuse that forced us. To say enough was enough, and ensure there were working standards, end child slaveshops and all the rest too. Though it went on for a long time before anything changed.

Re:Really? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39056123)

the idea here is to not be a cunt.

not be a less obvious cunt.

Re:Really? (5, Informative)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056035)

It goes a lot deeper than just the components. It goes down to the minerals and metals that make up those components:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coltan#Ethics_of_Coltan_mining_in_the_Democratic_Republic_of_Congo [wikipedia.org]

http://sitemaker.umich.edu/section002group3/coltan_mining_in_democratic_republic_of_the_congo [umich.edu]

Apple gets the spotlight thrown on it because of its popular following. But every company that makes anything electronic or that contains electronic components is just as culpable.

Silence is golden (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055353)

The lack of responses so far suggests that they all do. most of us can't affors $20k for a cell phone.

Re:Silence is golden (4, Interesting)

dxkelly (11295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055453)

That doesn't excuse it. If slavery is required to make cell phones at a reasonable price then we'll have to do without.
"I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process." -- Benjamin Harrison 23rd President

Re:Silence is golden (-1, Troll)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055501)

is he one of those commies like fdr? every president prior to the fortieth was a fucking commie... and most of them after!

Look down. (1)

MickLinux (579158) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055541)

Okay, there on the left is Manuel. There on the right is Palmer. They will work for you as hard as you want them to, and nobody can accuse you of being a slave driver. That said, I think that a large fraction of customers, given the choice, would not buy slavery tainted products. That is one thing that has held me back on the more expensive Raspberry PI: the concern that Chinese manufacture may be tainted. But typically speaking, it is the profit maximizing stores that eliminate your options.

Re:Look down. (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056225)

That is one thing that has held me back on the more expensive Raspberry PI: the concern that Chinese manufacture may be tainted.

Also that they do not take orders yet.

Re:Silence is golden (4, Interesting)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055703)

Except that alternative is worse for the workers, who already have the option of not working at those factories and, funnily enough, they don't actually prefer it.

Your solution helps your moral guilty at their expense. For shame.

http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/smokey.html [mit.edu]

Re:Silence is golden (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055919)

Oh, and before someone accuses me of rationalizing to justify my toys, I don't need to since I can't afford them anyway. I have a used Nokia and a cheap laptop - no iPhone, Android, tablet, kindle or console.

Re:Silence is golden (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055923)

Yes, crappy jobs are better than no jobs at all. You know what's better still? A decent job, with fair pay and reasonable conditions.

If we refuse to buy phones and such from companies that run mandatory twelve hour shifts and force college students to "intern" doing manual labor for a pittance, that doesn't mean that all those jobs will come back to the US. It means that companies like Foxconn will be forced to pay better wages, shorten shifts, and generally treat their employees better. Shorter shifts also means more people need to be hired.

End result? Our tech gadgets cost a few percent more, tens of millions of Chinese people get lifted out of poverty, and we can rest easy in the knowledge that we're not growing fat off slave labor. If it keeps a few more jobs from being offshored, all the better, but it's just gravy at that point.

Re:Silence is golden (1)

owski (222689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056039)

If we refuse to buy phones and such from companies that run mandatory twelve hour shifts and force college students to "intern" doing manual labor for a pittance, that doesn't mean that all those jobs will come back to the US.

Or, more likely, it will mean that no one makes the gadgets at all and there are no jobs.

me! (5, Funny)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055355)

we offer a full line of consumer and professional electronics, athletic apparel, and soy products, all officially certified by the retchdog institute for unicorns and sunshine to be completely free of whatever it is you find objectionable. our modest markup of 1200% is necessary to ensure that only the finest managers, assistant managers, and assistants to assistant managers are hired from a competitive field of my friends and extended family.

No one. (1)

Elgonn (921934) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055357)

No one. Seriously. I don't think you can even make certain all the components of an OpenMoko device are clear of your standards.

No such thing as ethical corporations (5, Insightful)

jehan60188 (2535020) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055375)

There's no such thing. Corporations aren't in the business of creating products in an ethical manner. They're in the business of making money by using the cheapest parts and labor possible.. If they could employ slaves, and get away with it, they would.

No slaves please. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055457)

Sorry, corporate overlord here. Slaves require room, board, clothes, etc. provided for them. It doesn't come free. It's much much better now underpaying non-slaves, as people line up to replace them.

Keep complaining though, but make sure not to change your lifestyle at all. Because that works.

Re:No slaves please. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056167)

um, no.
You might want to look at the history of corporate behavior in unregulated/low regulated societies through out all of history.

I deal, they pay for boarding and good. Or force a company store; which is the same thing as slavery.

Slave doesn't equate to no pay. Slaves can get paid, but then be forced to pay their employer room and board, and force them to use the company store.

Re:No such thing as ethical corporations (2)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055527)

It doesn't mean there can't be.

Firstly, the people within Corporations could stop acting like frakking arseholes all the time, and have some principles. And no, I don't care about the principles of capitalism, the people in charge absolutely can and should be blamed for being amoral bastards.

Secondly, and we already see this in some arenas, consumers can start spending their money only with corporations they consider ethically sound. The effect of this would be that in order to slavishly follow the maximum available profit, corps would have to act ethically or be outcompeted by those that do.

I know that both situations are a pipe dream, people care more about price than ethics and most business practices will not change and most people will not demand they do.

Re:No such thing as ethical corporations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055671)

Walmart buys lots of their merchandise from China and other third world countries. At the Walmart stores, the associates are often people who can not find a better job. They are paid low wages because most are just shelf stockers. There is lots of stress placed on lower level managers, and associates that work for them.

Re:No such thing as ethical corporations (1)

WaterDamage (719017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055695)

Not true, there are quite a few very good corporations that treat and pay their employees very well. We just tend to concentrate on the bad news. One prime example of the top of my head is Google.

Re:No such thing as ethical corporations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055895)

They can and do get away with it every day.

Re:No such thing as ethical corporations (5, Insightful)

zedrdave (1978512) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056033)

Valid assumption, wrong conclusion.

Corporations are in the business of making money... and they have long realised one way of doing that was betting on upper-middle-class consumer guilt to pay a premium in exchange for some sort of vaguely-enforced "ethical business" seal-of-approval. It's a niche market, but a market nonetheless.

Just look at Whole Foods' CEO [wikipedia.org]: not exactly the hippy-dippy type, just a guy who realised there was a market to tap, and tap he did. Call it cynical (it definitely is), but some corporations will behave ethically, just as long as they can make a profit out of it.

Its consumers not corporations that are to blame (3, Insightful)

drnb (2434720) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056191)

There's no such thing. Corporations aren't in the business of creating products in an ethical manner. They're in the business of making money by using the cheapest parts and labor possible.

Emphasize "possible". "Possible" includes behavior acceptable to consumers.

Sweat shops and outsourcing are driven by consumer preferences. Namely the consumer's preference for the absolute lowest price regardless of all other considerations. It is a classic tragedy of the commons situation.

Corporate greed does *not* inevitably lead to sweat shops and outsourcing. Of primary importance to corporations are sales, and sales are determined by consumers. Outsourcing and sweat shops are only possible if there is consumer indifference, if employing such methods will offend customers and result in lost sales then the "greed" motivation says do not employ such methods.

Corporate greed actually inevitably leads to satisfying consume demands at the lowest possible cost *and* consistent with consumer expectations. Consumers are actually in control of the methods employed by corporations.

Re:No such thing as ethical corporations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39056199)

That's not how it works. They're in the business of making money PERIOD. If that means using more expensive parts and labor in order to prevent PR problems and plummeting sales, they will.

Of course, that requires enough customers to demand it, which makes it entirely society's fault.

From whom can I buy? (3, Informative)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055379)

Re:From whom can I buy? (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056055)

The ICs are still almost entirely made in the third world. Even when the dies are made somewhere with standards, they're usually packaged somewhere poorer.

But then you can go further. Some poor bastard mined the tin and copper for the leads. Another processed the ore to raw metal, another stamped the sheet metal. Someone made chemicals for processing the ore, and making the epoxy. Someone trucked that stuff to the packaging facility. Chances are most of those people were working in pretty shitty conditions also.

DIY/Relativity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055387)

If you have infinite time and money, and care not for features, build your own? [insert laughter]

On a side note, how do you define ethical qualms?

Re:DIY/Relativity (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39056149)

You don't need unlimited time or money, you need to be well organized, know your needs precisely and be willing to learn and work hard.

I run a small artisan bakery, and I not only build the shop from scratch, but I have also made all the equipment I need myself - including mixers, a rather hi-tech production line including a kneeder, dough laminator, rather complex dough proofer, shaper with corresponding loaders. I myself manage to produce about 500-600 items for about half a day, most of it long-rise bread. My ovens even report stuff on Twitter for my customers.

Not only is everything DIY (including the cast aluminium boxes for the electronics), it is also cheaper than any alternative with similar capabilities and capacity I've been able to source. And it was all made in my backyard, with hand tools from recycled materials over a year, including the learning. I had never touched a shovel, a saw, a router, a milling machine or a soldering iron before that.

If you want, you can do it, the problem is everyone wants to be a manager, and nobody wants to do the hard work.

Re:DIY/Relativity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39056283)

Do you have a link ?

I'm really interested to see this stuff.

It's all about the money. (2)

WaterDamage (719017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055397)

Money talks, and we're all guilty in this rat race to the bottom for the lowest cost. When robotics and automation get good enough, even Foxconn exploited workers will be out of work. We're in the middle of a transition to full or almost fully robotic manufacturing, give it a few years, no one will have a job expect robot builders and service men to maintain them.

Re:It's all about the money. (5, Interesting)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055443)

This is a topic that goes around on ./ every now and then.

When all the manufacturing etc is done by robots - surely the entire capitalist system will crash. The inherent nature of capitalism is to have a triangle - the wide base with people doing low paid jobs, the people who go to university and get a good education to get well paid jobs in the middle, and the 1%ers at the top.

If you start messing with that triangle, won't the whole thing collapse?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting there's anything inherently wrong with this system (buggy whip manufacturers etc) - but ...?

university does not = job skills tech needs appren (1, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055607)

university does not = job skills tech needs apprenticeship for lot's of IT jobs and not just CS. No we need more tech school. Lot's of people are going to university not learning what they need to do a job and end up working at McDonalds or walmart with big loans to pay back.

Re:It's all about the money. (2)

moortak (1273582) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055649)

When technological changes occur faster in an economy than social changes you end up with massive social disorder. That was the whole issue with the Luddites. Their way of life was being changed by new technology faster than the social structures were changing. People reacted violently. In time social structures and people's views caught up with where the economy had moved and things settled down into a new pattern for a while. We may be due for another rough transition.

That's not capitalism. (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055887)

No, the triangle works against the free market by consolidating power into the hands of a few people who are then able to control the market. In reality the free market would work better if everyone were on a more equal footing, since it requires people have the ability to negotiate a fair price for themselves. Not that I believe that will happen, but it's important to understand that the people who oppose that are actually opposing the free market.

Seriously? (5, Insightful)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055399)

This is about as useful as asking who doesn't rely on semi-slave labor practices during the industrialization phase of the UK or US (no vacations, Pinkerton detective agency, strikebreaking, pittance wages, etc.).

Look, this phase is messy, but necessary.

They can't just start out with a "services" economy all styling each others' hair.

They have to go through this phase, and it's certainly a step up from the near-starvation they had in the countryside. Then wages go up, slowly, but surely. Before you know it, Chinese will be asking about organic certification before they deign to go to work for a company.

Re:Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055497)

Necessary? From one sample point in history?

Give me a break, this is greed.

Re:Seriously? (1)

Xacid (560407) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055839)

Japan.

Re:Seriously? (1)

drnb (2434720) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056217)

Japan.

Nope. Japan was a controlled experiment. As part of the post-WW2 reconstruction the US assisted Japan's rebuilding and modernization of its industry and opened US markets to Japan as a form of economic support. Japan was subsidized and externally managed to a degree.

no, it's not necessary (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055553)

it has never been necessary. there is nothing about the manufacture of electronics, or anything else, that requires

1. not paying wages
2. raping employees
3. dumping toxic waste into drinking water
4. 80 hour work weeks

etc etc etc. there are ways to produce goods without any of these things. the most productive nation on earth in the 20th century was the united states, and it was largely unionized labor with labor rights and relatively high wages. the only people who think 'slavery = prodcutivity' are people who think the old south was a nice place.

Re:no, it's not necessary (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055735)

Way to fail reading comprehension -- or was it just historical awareness?

The US in (most of) the 20th centuryhad already gone through the stage he mentions -- citing it to say that transitional stage is unnecessary is no argument at all. Now if you could cite someplace that has become industrialized without any workers' rights issues, that might make your point -- but I'm unaware of any such example, because AFAIK it always does happen. (Not to say it must happen, as GP asserts -- I hope you can comprehend the distinction).

Re:no, it's not necessary (3, Insightful)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056111)

there are ways to produce goods without any of these things. the most productive nation on earth in the 20th century was the united states

And it got that way by being the United States in the 19th century. Crack a history book.

That isn't what he is arguing (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056141)

He's not suggesting that it is necessary from a manufacturing point of view. He's claiming it is a necessary stage from a developmental point of view, ie that there is no other (or at least no better) way of transitioning from a largely pre-industrial/agrarian society.

What are China's other options? It is tempting to view this from a western perspective and see it as some sort of "race to the bottom". From a chinese perspective that wouldn't be the case as they are seeing massive reductions in poverty.

Re:Seriously? (0)

themusicgod1 (241799) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055907)

There is nothing necessary about human affairs.

For starters, opening borders to allow for said workers to come into the developed world, and offering them free transportation to get there would be one step. Giving them free english/other language lessons and healthcare is another. Are these things we can afford? Both of those things would have huge impacts on the availability of labour at slave and low-wage conditions.

For the cost of the global bank bailouts we could have done both of those things. For the cost of the bailouts yet to come, we may be able to do more. Now at this point it might be true that we are spent; in that case it should be a goal put on the immediate horizon that once we are able to, we should do something of this nature.

it's the playing field, not the players (2)

jdogalt (961241) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055403)

Fair labor practices are not something that takes care of itself via an Invisible Hand, be it that of Capitalism or of God. So long as the playing field tells the players that they can outsource slave labor, or even just significantly unfair labor (folks with nothing like 1st ammendment rights), then all players that chose not to do so will quickly lose and cease to exist. The only way to solve the problem (that I'm thinking of right now in full on rhetoric mode) is to have better national standards of who we do business with in the global international trade community. Put standards in place, and make it profitable for international actors to meet the improved standards. But as can be evidenced by opening your eyes in the morning and looking at the world, there will be a lot of political pressure against that path. But hopefully one day the incessant light - fueled by real freedom of speech and the press- shining on exploitive employers/slavers, will cause things to move in the right direction. I hope.

Re:it's the playing field, not the players (3, Insightful)

Freddybear (1805256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055775)

"Fair labor practices are not something that takes care of itself via an Invisible Hand, be it that of Capitalism or of God."

Yes, actually, they do improve as a result of market conditions (the so-called invisible hand), when employers have to compete for workers in the marketplace. When there is a glut of labor applying for a few factory jobs, then yes, wages will be low and conditions will be poor. But then more manufacturers will build factories to take advantage of that cheap labor and the supply/demand situation will shift in favor of the workers.
That is exactly what the "invisible hand" is about.

Re:it's the playing field, not the players (1)

jdogalt (961241) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056001)

I mentioned Invisible Hand, because, yes, I am versed in the theory, though some of the more important writings I may have most recently read 20 years ago in college. Without much certainty, I suspect that if I reviewed the classic texts, that I'd find most express what you expressed, though squarely in the realm where the various actors you mention, are all playing on a level capitalistic/legal field. When you start talking about international trade with key players that still call themselves communist, and actually do run very efficient factories with clearly not so rewarded workers (i.e. call it halfway from the 1st ammendment to slave labor)... then it becomes a different equation. Hence the subject of my comment- that the emphasis on the calculous at hand should be the rules of the playing field, and not the choices made within the rules by any particular players.

Its the consumers not the playing field (2)

drnb (2434720) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056303)

... The only way to solve the problem (that I'm thinking of right now in full on rhetoric mode) is to have better national standards of who we do business with in the global international trade community. Put standards in place, and make it profitable for international actors to meet the improved standards. But as can be evidenced by opening your eyes in the morning and looking at the world, there will be a lot of political pressure against that path ...

Yes and no. Your logic is flawed because it is government based, based on political pressure. The true solution is to have a consumer based solution, to leverage corporate greed. To have consumers make conscious decisions to pick products more inline with their ideals rather than whatever has the lowest price tag. Corporate greed seeks sales not lowest cost production. Low cost production does no good if consumers reject your products to do your production methods.

I looked at two full HD resolution computer monitors last week. A Viewsonic made in China and a Samsung made in Mexico. They seemed to be basically equivalent, but the Viewsonic was about US$30 cheaper. After considering that Mexico is a neighbor and that the Mexican government is friendlier I decided to go with the Samsung. I do not mean to suggest that Mexico is perfect with respect to labor practices, just less objectionable. Sometimes that is the only option available.

That said, the internet has made if far easier to find Made in USA goods than ever before. You are no longer limited to what your local brick and mortar carries.

General Chinese labor conditions (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055441)

I work in China. It is worth noting that some of the conditions at Foxconn, while terrible by Western standards, are normal here.

A Chinese friend worked as a waitress. She thought $400 a month (in a culture where there are no tips) was excellent money. Most meals and a bunk in a shared apartment provided. No heat, at a latitude where frost is moderately common.

In at 9 am to do cleaning, work until after lunch, sleep in the afternoon, start again at 4:30 and work until closing which was usually about 11 but if customers wanted to stay later, some waitresses would have to stay until 2 or 3. No extra money for that. She got two days a month off, and thought that was generous, but a "day off" meant coming in at 4:30 instead of in the morning.

Re:General Chinese labor conditions (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055547)

They are opening a new plant in a less prosperous area. Salaries are going up as a result.
http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90001/90778/90860/7122397.html
(People's Daily is a Party organ, some skepticism is required)

And there are long queues for the jobs:
http://www.itproportal.com/2012/02/01/despite-hash-conditions-thousands-line-up-to-get-a-job-at-foxconn/

Re:General Chinese labor conditions (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055903)

This should be modded up to 6. The real issue, coming from a real person living in the real situation. The "problem" is that employee supply and employer demand meet at a point where the employees are living in what we consider poverty. Any attempt to modify the situation would worsen it. Pay artificially high wages, and too many employees want too few jobs, which invariably leads to corruption (gangsters taking a cut to get people jobs). Furthermore, another company will pay lower wages and get the job done for less, so the high paying employer goes out of business.

We Americans talk about being "hungry", but that's not an expression in most other parts of the world, and those people want out jobs.

Re:General Chinese labor conditions (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056145)

Clueless. It's a workers market. Wages are going up., and workers often change jobs for better pay and conditions.

Re:General Chinese labor conditions (1)

jginspace (678908) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056147)

Most meals and a bunk in a shared apartment provided. No heat, at a latitude where frost is moderately common.

I'm not asking to be modded down and i'm not trying to be all Monty Python but ... if these bunks are arranged really spaciously they might need heating - depends on the latitude. If they're arranged anything like the standard for employee accommodation then body heat will take care of it. So which to choose? Just how bad is it?

Let's hear some balanced accounts of conditions in these places. As you said, your friend thought this was a decent job.

Re:General Chinese labor conditions (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056257)

So its normal for over a hundred workers to threaten mass suicide in protest over the working conditions?

Does assembly count? (1)

el_tedward (1612093) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055461)

I recently bought a laptop from System76. I know they at least assemble their stuff in Americuh. And they support teh linux too, so thats cool.

Re:Does assembly count? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055617)

Considering they use parts manufactured by Foxconn, most likely not.

Dumpsters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055465)

It's unfortunate, but the only ethical source of most electronics these days is other peoples trash.

Re:Dumpsters (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056293)

It's unfortunate, but the only ethical source of most electronics these days is other peoples trash.

Buying used wold apply under the same logic. Which is what I do for totally unrelated reasons.

Free-Range Smartphones (4, Funny)

Renderer of Evil (604742) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055469)

I have this hookup in Napa Valley which supplies me with free-range electronics. It comes from a commune where they manufacture phones and laptops using sustainable, cruelty-free paleo techniques. Their R&D division is an ayuhuasca hut.

Re:Free-Range Smartphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055741)

I used to work there! There was this chick who used to go on and on about how paleo people used to use carbon soot-based suspensions and feather shafts to digitize information on dried wood-pulp sheets ... she was bat-shiat insane, of course, and kept trying to get the other guys to use organic solder and spun wool PCBs, but seriously, I mean we all communed with mother Gaia and wanted to be as green as we could, so in the end we had to push her into a polymer recycling tank -- she wound up as really cool pink phone casings and I think she would have liked that.

"..from whom can I buy it without ethical qualms?" (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055483)

Someone with very high prices. (Or you could do without...)

Re:"..from whom can I buy it without ethical qualm (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055829)

Someone with very high prices. (Or you could do without...)

Like apple?

I know one! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055489)

I hear Acme Slide-Rules in Burlington treats their employees very well.

It is like getting customer service... (1)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055491)

on an airline.
As a country we aren't willing to pay extra for good service on an airline - it is all about who has the lowest fair on expedia/priceline/... not which brand has good customer service. As a country we are not willing to pay for extras like good customer service, quality, or good business practices. Anyone old enough when the big selling point of walmart was "Made in America"? It was great - walmart was great - jobs were great... Then it was time to lower prices - either by breaking the labor force in the USA or shipping manufacturing somewhere "cheaper". Now walmart requires suppliers to have a plan to manage their manufacturing in China... No more Made in the USA there.
It is a shame isn't it.

Re:It is like getting customer service... (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056091)

If it makes you feel any better, the Chinese feel the same way about air travel. They only want to spend as little as possible. This known fact is backed up by a little known domestic airline inside China called SSS. It's the largest and fastest growing. I've taken several flights. You get a single bottle of water and all meals are bought on the plane. Halfway through the flight, the flight attendants will walk down the isle with a cart advertising all sorts of crap to sell. As an American, I find that to be some funny shit going on. It's like they're owned and operated by the Ferengi.

Copyrighted marking scheme (2)

hwstar (35834) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055565)

There are UL, CSA and CE marks which go on equipment which convey "This product was tested and found to be reasonably safe". There could also be a mark which goes in the product documentation and on the nameplate which is recognisable by consumers who are concerned about exploitation of workers. The safety marks require bi-annual inspections of the factory and also the submission of objective evidence that the product was manufactured with all the safety critical components in place. The same thing could be done with the supply chain for a procut all the way up to final assembly similar to what has been done with RoHS

Maybe the EU could incorporate this requirement right into the existing CE mark. If you then wanted to sell your product in the EU, you would have to prove that it was manufactured in a way which did not exploit workers throughout the entire supply chain. This would never happen in the US, though, as the Corps control the government there, and there is a culture of only caring about the price and not about the workers who made the product.

Re:Copyrighted marking scheme (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056221)

Problem with this is - I see the CE mark on many devices that (yes, [citation needed]) I'm almost entirely sure have not been tested, and don't qualify for CE/TuV/UL/etc. Random worthless electronics from china on ebay, for example.

That testing isn't cheap, you know.

sparkfun (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055581)

sparkfun iirc has some interesting stories on their site where they visit China and the lines that make some of their stuff. note: its not foxconn.

you can also buy used.

Pinball Games Are made in the USA (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055621)

Pinball Games Are made in the USA by hand.

Re:Pinball Games Are made in the USA (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056249)

<STRONG> Hand assembled in AMERICA. </STRONG>

<font class="miniscule">(using components manufactured in the third world)</font>

Re:Pinball Games Are made in the USA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39056269)

ahh I see you took the MGC pinball tour too.

Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055631)

The best of the worst when it comes to manufacturing, and at least the engineering work is done here and not overseas. We don't have a lot of success in electronics engineering in the consumer space anymore...

The sad thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055659)

is that I remember reading an article about steve jobs discussing why products like the ipod will never be produced in america quoting that it would represent a 25% increase in costs and hence price. Personally I'd pay the difference if it meant people didn't commit suicide because of my ipod. I honestly would never buy from apple etc again if i had an alternative like that.

You're avoiding the obvious here (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055715)

ALL of the crap you buy is made by slave labour in one form or another. Clothes, coffee, chocolate, hell even VW used der juden before the allied liberation / pastoralization of West Germany...

Robot Overloards Come forth! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055719)

Nearly everyday I see examples of cheap effective robotics doing the same kinds of tasks as those chinese workers. Why don't we just automate the whole process I can't imagine that it wouldn't be far cheaper and more efficient in the long run. .

I THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055725)

a sad world. At than a fraction FASTER, CHEAPER, Leaving core. I We'll be aBle to first avoid going exactly what you've Sorely diminished. antibacterial soap. I know it sux0rs, same year, BSD

It's very simple (1)

musixman (1713146) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055771)

It's real simple, If you don't like Apple's policies don't use or buy their products (that's called being a man). instead you bitch on your Macbook Pro's about how they are mistreating the employees & make a stand on an internet messaging board. If Microsoft pulled the shit Apple is right now they would have been anti-trusted into bankruptcy... drink the kool aid BTW, I used a mac to post this.

Re:It's very simple (0)

ETEQ (519425) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056041)

(that's called being a man).

You know, women buy things too. And plenty of them put their money where their mouth is.
 
Try to avoid misogynistic language... Whether you think you're joking or not, this stuff really matters (probably a lot more than which computer you buy...).

Intel (1)

greenmars (685118) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055817)

Intel seems to have good labor practices: With the exception of Ricoh, Intel and Motorola Mobility, the IT industry earns dismal grades when it comes to sustainability and social practices, averaging about a D+, Oekom Research AG says in a new report. http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2011/12/19/it-industry-gets-d-green-policy-labor-practices [greenbiz.com]

Re:Intel (1)

wmelnick (411371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055897)

Intel's motherboards are made by Foxconn. No different than Apple, or for that matter Acer, Dell, Cisco/HP, Gateway, Motorola, Nintendo, Nokia, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and Vizio

Re:Intel (1)

MarioMax (907837) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056099)

Intel processors are (mostly) made in the USA. Chinese labor practices don't fly in Intel's American fabs.

Re:Intel (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056127)

Just because they are made by the same companies does not make them the same.

Also, I don't think foxconn makes Asus MB

Not so fast... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055853)

If I want to buy a new tech gadget, from whom can I buy it without ethical qualms?"

I'd love to hear from some of these workers before deciding what those ethical qualms are. I'm all for helping them out, but it'd be nice for them to ask. Afterall, we don't want to cause them to lose their jobs.

cheap Cartier wedding ring on sale from China (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39055937)

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Easy... (1)

zedrdave (1978512) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055961)

Look for the one that costs 3 times the price of those other $100-a-month-Chinese-factory-produced gadgets...

Funny thing is: you (and most other people living in Western countries) would probably not mind so much paying that difference, had their wages not stagnated or downright sunk (relative to inflation and overall cost of life), in part due to all manufacturing jobs getting outsourced to low-paying countries. OK, nevermind: it's not particularly funny.

IBM POWER servers (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 2 years ago | (#39055991)

They're probably the last bastion of American computer assembly - I believe you can actually get an option code that certifies that an IBM POWER machine is made in the US of US components, even, intended for national security applications.

Taiwan (1)

fragMasterFlash (989911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056009)

It wasn't all that long ago that the worlds manufacturing floor for PC components was Taiwan rather than mainland China. Anyone care to contrast the current working conditions in China to those in Taiwan 10 years ago?

Impossible to answer (2)

ukoda (537183) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056051)

Depending on your standard there is probably none. I have spent a lot of time in China over the last couple of years and have visited quite a few factories. The working conditions vary of course but general the higher quality the product the better the factory is made in. I guess the attention to details that make a better product are also more like to make a better work environment. The quality of our product is our reputation which is why we now have our own factory built to first world standards. We also pay our staff well above market value. In return for a better work environment and pay we make clear to our employees that we expect them to take the quality of their work seriously. The result is can produce a quality product at a good price. Of course if we were making high volume low margin products that might not be possible.

The catch is we don't make all the parts, but deal with factories that do and they in turn deal with other factories of which we have no idea of the their standards. The factories I have visited have been better than I had expected but most would be borderline by first world standards with hardest thing I have seen being the employees who work their whole shift standing. I couldn't do that. Often the heating and cooling is substandard and safety standards are like stepping back 30 years in time. I imagine myself doing their work and in most cases it would be no worse than the kind for work I did part time in my youth. While the work conditions are not great they are not so bad I feel guilty about buying Chinese products. Of course there may be many far worse places I have not seen yet.

The pay on the other hand is probably a issue. I don't know how much the average worker gets but I suspect it is often unethically low. That is a result of our race to bottom on prices because at the end of the day given two similar products most people will buy the cheaper one and you follow that down the supply chain you will find that is the cheapest labor force.

There is an irony here that over the 6 years since I first visited China the average person's position has improved. For example my first trip bicycles were the most common transport, now it is electric scooters. With wages rising and work conditions improving China is now loosing it competitive edge over other 3rd world countries who's peoples have not seen any improvement.

It's changing (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39056089)

China has recently change their laws, and is trying to get out of the cheap unskilled labor.

Due to this, and increased fuel costs, jobs are starting to return to the US.

New laws make it illegal to work more then 60 hours a week, even if the worker volunteers. Salary increase, etc..

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