Apple, Foxconn and the iEconomy

By James Crowell
February 7, 2012

There is a good chance that you have one in your pocket, but have you ever considered how many people have died making it?

Most high-tech consumer goods of our modern age come from multinational companies that often design their products in the US, but manufacture them overseas in places like China or Japan.  Apple is well-known as an innovator in how they market and sell their iPads, iPhones, iPods and Macs.  Recently however, Apple has made headlines due to unsafe and inhumane working conditions at Foxconn factories in China.

It is unconscionable to allow human rights violations to take place.  Every human being deserves respect, regardless of their socioeconomic background.  By controlling the vertical supply chain, Apple has almost complete dominance over where and how their consumer electronics are built.

In the 12 years since debuting the iPod, Apple has grown from a successful computer company to a cooperate behemoth that can cause a world-wide shortage of semiconductors or LED screens just due to their intense consumer demand.  Now Apple has one key aspect to their success: a true and absolute understanding of global manufacturing.  The unstoppable nature of Apple is due to the driving force behind all businesses on earth: the mandate by stockholders to make money. The drive to continuously improve their profits has resulted in allowing venders to make shortcuts and subject workers to slave-labor wages and inhumane conditions, all in the quest for extra porfit.

A large explosion tore through a Foxconn factory in Chengdu, China on a Friday evening in May 2011.  Four people died and 18 were injured.  The factory was building iPads at the time.  Luckily, more were not hurt since a large number of workers were in the cafeteria at the time of the violent explosion.  This explosion exemplifies the horrid working conditions that workers deal with all of the time.

Employees at Foxconn factories work excessive overtime and live in crowded dorms according to a New York TImes article published on Jan. 25.  Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk.

It is unacceptable to treat others like this.  How can officials turn their back on such clear human right violations?  This kind of behavior should be beyond humanity.  What may be the saddest and most morally reprehensible part of this whole situation is that Apple has ignored these transgressions of human morality.  Knowing Apple’s structure, they must know of the deplorable working conditions in China.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel.  By writing and contacting Apple and voicing an opinion on the matter, it is not impossible to enact change.  Changing how an enormous company handles their affairs is not as daunting as it seems.  For instance, Verizon dropped a charge that would have billed their customers a proposed two dollar ‘convenience charge’ after much public outcry on Twitter and other social media.

Humanity is at a crossroads in many respects.  How we treat our poorest and most vulnerable in society reflects on everyone.  By petitioning Apple and raising awareness of the situation in Foxconn factories, we can truly make this world a better place.

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James Crowell

Senior com major at Cabrini College. Technical Director for LOQation. On-Air personality on WYBF-FM. Past News editor for The Loquitur, 2011-12. Passion for videography, tech news & quantum mechanics. Follow me @JamesCrowellJr

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