A couple of weeks ago I became the proud owner of an iPhone. It was an upgrade from my Droid, which was smart, but nothing like the iPhone that synchronizes through the iCloud with my iMac and my MacBook Air.
Then I read two NY Times articles: How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone and Work In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad that report at length on the abysmal working conditions in the Chinese factories where Apple’s products are manufactured. As it happens, Apple is one of our most valuable American companies because of its very aggressive approach to outsourcing. This interactive NY Times video explains how outsourcing affects our job economy.
As compelling as the Times articles are, listen to this recent episode of This American Life, Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory, where Mike Daisey, an unabashed Apple geek, goes to examine the worker conditions at the iPhone factory in Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China. The Times articles focus on worker conditions. Daisey centers on the workers themselves and the surprising amount of handwork, cheapest labor, that goes into each product.
Should this information make me give up my iPhone?
Is it helpful to know that Apple is committed to the highest standards of social responsibility across their worldwide supply chain and has an auditing system to assure that all of their suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes?
Or to read NY Times columnist, Nicholas Kristoff, who says that on balance, the world is better with sweatshops than without?
And to realize with most of our products, we don’t take into account the true environmental and moral costs associated with their manufacture?
For now, I’ll remain an iPhone owner, just not so proud anymore.