The man who brought Apple’s manufacturing practices into the public consciousness, Mike Daisey, is appalled by NYT gadget guru David Pogue’s recent defence of those practices.As we noted earlier, Pogue made the point that electronics-manufacturing jobs are better than the jobs Chinese workers had before the factories were built.
Daisey agrees with that–and observes that no one sensible is arguing that the factories should be shut down.
And then he hauls off on just about everything else Pogue had to say:
- Apple knew about supply-chain violations for years and did nothing about them, so don’t congratulate them now
- Foxconn is notorious for saying it is giving people “raises” to head off bad PR–and then being deceptive about this
- Most factories these days are “clean”
- The Foxconn jobs aren’t “summer jobs” for workers bound for a better life–they’re critical for supporting the workers’ families back home
- Of course people line up thousands deep for the Foxconn jobs–there are hundreds of millions of unemployed impoverished people in China and any job is better than no job
- And so on…
It was Daisey’s firsthand reporting, courtesy of a bold visit to Foxconn in Shenzhen, that first painted a clear picture of this issue for many Americans.
Daisey’s report was followed by a detailed investigation by PRI and a series of stories in the New York Times, all of which shed further light on the working conditions and wages of the people who make iPhone, iPads, and other electronic gadgets.
Apple responded to these stories by ordering new investigations into Foxconn’s practices. Foxconn, meanwhile, gave its most visible employees a raise, and allowed ABC News to visit its Shenzhen factory.
And now Pogue and Daisey are trading blows.
So who’s right?
They’re both right.
They both make fair points.
Apple, especially, is an unfathomably rich company that could afford to pay the people who make its products a lot more than it pays them and take even more care to make sure that they aren’t being forced to work in dangerous environments or otherwise abused. (Apple doesn’t directly employ the workers, obviously, but there’s plenty of profit there to be shared with the supply chain). Over time, as China’s wages rise, Apple and other manufacturers probably will have to share more of this profit, especially if customers remain focused on this issue.
At the same time, the Foxconn jobs are indeed better than the old alternatives. And they appear to be continuing to improve. The cost of living is lower in China, so $2 an hour goes farther (perhaps–I’m guessing–as far as America’s minimum wage goes here). And if repetitive, boring, and stressful work were inhumane or unfair, Foxconn certainly wouldn’t have a monopoly on it.