At the usual risk of getting more angry emails, I’d like to write something about Apple, Foxconn, and the workers that make up their gadgets and for that matter, the workers that put together all of our gadgets from any and whatever company. This way, you know that this speaks to everyone. For those that missed it or want a larger overview, the New York Times wrote an incredible piece entitled, “In China, Human Costs are Built into an iPad.”
For gadgeteers, it should be obvious why I’m writing this today:
The new iPad is being released today.
Millions upon millions will be sold. In fact, all the pre-sale inventory was sold out several days ago. The first person – globally – lined up a full week before the sale of the iPad. Every store will have droves of lines circled around the corner. It’s on everyone’s wish list – admitted or not admitted – perhaps with the exception of Bill Gates. I will confess that I’m also tempted to upgrade the original iPad that was gifted me couple years ago.
Globalization is complex.
Anyone that says otherwise is incapable of anything beyond simple thinking. It’s incredibly complex.
Now, let’s be clear: Apple didn’t create the ‘sweat-shop’ phenomenon. In its defense, you’ll hear hundreds upon hundreds of people in China that express their gratefulness for their jobs. Every day, several hundred folks are in line for new job openings in one of these infamous factories. There are certainly many critics but there are also ardent supporters. For example, this letter forces us to think:
My aunt worked several years in what Americans call “sweat shops.” It was hard work. Long hours, “small” wage, “poor” working conditions. Do you know what my aunt did before she worked in one of these factories? She was a prostitute.
Circumstances of birth are unfortunately random, and she was born in a very rural region. Most jobs were agricultural and family owned, and most of the jobs were held by men. Women and young girls, because of lack of educational and economic opportunities, had to find other “employment.”
The idea of working in a “sweat shop” compared to that old lifestyle is an improvement, in my opinion. I know that my aunt would rather be “exploited” by an evil capitalist boss for a couple of dollars than have her body be exploited by several men for pennies.
That is why I am upset by many Americans’ thinking. We do not have the same opportunities as the West. Our governmental infrastructure is different. The country is different.
Yes, factory is hard labor. Could it be better? Yes, but only when you compare such to American jobs.
If you’re an industry leader, be a leader in all things.
While jobs are created and more opportunities may arise as a result of Apple, we can’t simply celebrate Apple as the most “admired company” or “most valuable company” without scrutinizing or at least, wrestling, with the mostly verified reports of working conditions, overworked employees, numerous suicides, and the list goes on and on.
In 2006, the Mail on Sunday alleged that sweatshop conditions existed in factories in China, where the contract manufacturers, Foxconn and Inventec, operate the factories that produce the iPod. The article stated that one iPod factory, for instance, had over 200,000 workers that lived and worked in the factory, with workers regularly doing more than 60 hours of labor per week. The article also reported that workers made around $100 per month and were required to live on the premises and pay for rent and food from the company. Living expenses (required to keep the job) generally took up a little over half of the worker’s earnings. The article also said that workers were given buckets to wash their clothes
In 2009 and 2010, Foxconn factories supplying iPhones, iPads and other devices have still come under fire in the press, with one source describing conditions as a “white collar prison”. In 2009, Foxconn guards were videotaped beating employees. Later in April 2010, four workers attempted suicide in a single month in the same factory. By May 2010, 12 workers had attempted suicide at a Foxconn operations in China. Apple, HP, and others stated that they were investigating the situation. In response to the suicides, workers were forced to sign a legally binding document guaranteeing that they would not kill themselves. It is not clear how employees who fail to abide by the terms of this agreement will be sanctioned. [via Wikipedia]
I don’t want to be the party pooper, the naysayer, the cynic, the wanna be prophet, or the Apple hater.
There are reasons why Apple is perceived as the most admire company. But since it’s the industry leader, we must hold them to higher standards. Or to put it another way: If you’re an industry leader, be a leader in all areas. That, simply, is one of the burdens of being the industry leader.
A Prayer of Blessing…
While this post isn’t intended to resolve the complexities of globalization or fix the issues with Apple and Foxconn, my hope was to give my readers a perspective or blessing and to in fact, say a blessing for all those factory workers.
One of my favorite prayers is the prayer before a meal. During this prayer, we acknowledge our Creator and God’s provision; we acknowledge our family, friends, and community. In this prayer, I especially love this portion of the prayer:
“Bless the hands that have prepared this meal.”
I love this because it acknowledges our connectedness and gratitude to others – both within our homes and especially, outside of our homes. Through this prayer, I’m invited to consider the love (in some cases) and at least, the labor that goes into the preparation of the meals. Literally, the hands…
Just recently, Minhee and I were on a double date at a local restaurant and in our friend’s prayer before the meal, she prayed a blessing for the “hands” – the unseen cooks that helped prepare our meals. There’s a certain dignity and humanity in acknowledging the unseen and saying a blessing for them. A genuine blessing that God would also bless and prosper them.
And so today, I want to say a blessing to the unseen and unnamed workers that have put together the millions of iPads (and other gadgets) that we all enjoy in some form or another:
We are blessed beyond belief. Help us to understand that. And as we enjoy these blessings, convict us to be a blessing to others. Much has been given to us and much is to be expected.
May we not be lazy or apathetic consumers that simply drink, eat, and consume – without asking important questions. Help us to be mindful of your Kingdom’s values of mercy, justice, and compassion. Help us to be mindful so that we can be more deeply pursuant of your Kingdom.
As we enjoy our gadgets and our stuff, we say a prayer of blessing to the many hands that have put together these iPads and gadgets. While they are unseen and unnamed, we acknowledge that they, too, are your beloved. They are loved and seen by You. Reveal yourself to them. Reveal yourself to us. Remind us that they, too, are connected to You, and thus, to us. Bless them. Prosper them.
In Jesus name, Amen.