iPod sweatshops alleged

iPod sweatshops alleged

Summary: The UK's Mail on Sunday reported that Apple's iPods are made in China by mainly female workers who earn as little as 27 pounds per month. The report set off a tidal wave of objection and claims that iPods are made in sweatshops.

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TOPICS: Apple
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evil-bono-150.jpgThe UK's Mail on Sunday reported that Apple's iPods are made in China by mainly female workers who earn as little as 27 pounds per month. The report set off a tidal wave of objection and claims that iPods are made in sweatshops. According to Macworld UK:

The Mail visited some of these factories and spoke with staff there. It reports that Foxconn's Longhua plant houses 200,000 workers, remarking: "This iPod City has a population bigger than Newcastle's."

The report claims Longhua's workers live in dormitories that house 100 people, and that visitors from the outside world are not permitted. Workers toil for 15-hours a day to make the iconic music player, the report claims. They earn 27 pounds (US$50) per month. The report reveals that the iPod nano is made in a five-story factory (E3) that is secured by police officers.
According to iLounge Apple responded Tuesday by saying that they take the allegations seriously and that they are looking into them:
"Apple is committed to ensuring that working conditions in our supply chain are safe, workers are treated with respect and dignity, and manufacturing processes are environmentally responsible," adding that  they are "currently investigating the allegations regarding working conditions in the iPod manufacturing plant in China. We do not tolerate any violations of our supplier code of conduct which are posted online."
According to Apple's supplier code of conduct:
Apple is committed to ensuring that working conditions in our supply chain are safe, workers are treated with respect and dignity, and manufacturing processes are environmentally responsible.

Is anyone really surprised about this? Apple is in business to make a profit for its shareholders and they're obligated to maximize that profit. If China offers the cheapest labor pool then Apple will seek it out. On the other hand, should a large corporation that "recognizes its responsibility as a global citizen" exploit the labor of another country in their quest for the almighty buck? Heady issues indeed.

If you think Apple's any different than any other billion-dollar corporation - think again. I'd also recommend watching the movie "The Corporation" if you think that a company's objective is anything other than making the most money it can for its shareholders.

Where do you stand on the sweatshop flap?

UPDATE 2006-0515 11:45am ET:

AppleInsider has posted a pair of photos that were published earlier this week by the UK's Mail on Sunday that allegedly portray the work environment at Foxconn's "iPod City" in China.

Topic: Apple

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14 comments
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  • Apple should triple the cost and build in the US.

    And not one person should say boo about the cost...
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • not wholey unrealistic

      You're probably right because Mac-heads will pay any price to be cool.
      shraven
  • China Ipods

    I am a bit surprised Apple uses Taiwan companies for manufacturing on the mainland and I would guess this bad publicity may cause Apple to start going direct.
    China Law Blog
  • Chinese sweatshops

    Picture 6 Tibetian monks with their hands behind their backs, on their knees, shot in the back of the head so as to fall into a ready ditch. Go ahead buy Made in China.
    fstocking
  • Another Bad Apple...

    Apple has a hell of an image, and part of that image is that they are hip and different from other electronics companies. Their products appeal to artists, musicians, designers, and other liberal-minded folks who pride themselves in their political and social consciousness. And when Apple said they'd team up with Nike, I'd have to admit the question was fresh in my mind, "Does Apple use slave labor too?" I've seen "The Corporation" and I can almost guarantee you that all of your consumer electronics are. Odds are if it's "Made in China(or Taiwan)," then it's made with exploited labor.

    Why should it be a surprise to any of us?

    Apple consumers (myself included) are paying substantially more for the product and then find out it is made with slave-labor. Alpine audio does the same despite the fact people see it as a high-end brand. The fact that you pay more does not ensure your products are produced ethically. The iconic Apple appears less and less an organic hippy-friendly company, and more and more jock/sweatshop/greed thug.

    I'm not excusing any of this just because other companies do this. In fact, I think it's absurd how often this goes unchallenged. The truth is, these companies will always be making a profit. It's the maximizing of the profit that has led them to these slave-labor factories in China. Call it an out-of-sight out-of-mind thing. Don't ask, don't tell perhaps. But electronics have been getting cheaper for a reason. And the reason Apple's electronics are more expensive turns out not to be the reason we thought.

    What to do?

    Well, I'm not scrapping my Powerbook any time soon. But as Apple consumers we should let them know how we feel about a company whose logo we proudly display whenever we decide to browse, blog, or word process. I'd like to continue buying products from them, but I won't until I can be satisfied that they will not allow the abuse of workers for the manufacture of their products. I plan on letting them know that. If I'm going to buy electronics that I know are made from alve labor, I might as well feel less guilty by giving less money to corporate pimps from other computer companies(read NOT APPLE).

    I hope all of you get the reality check I did, and if Apple does something about it then I will be proud. Otherwise, I won't waste my time making them richer than they already are.
    John Campbell
  • Not just Apple

    Bad news for Apple, hope they get to the bottom of this and improve things. That said, these same factories are used by a lot of the electronics companies we buy from, including Lenovo, Linksys, Nokia and more. This is a system-wide issue, not limited to Apple.
    tic swayback
  • Apple trying to be greedy..

    Maybe this explains why apple moved out of india..
    The cost effeciency that i got in china couldnt be had in india..

    Maybe it makes sense to move these manufacturing sites to countries which have strict labor laws and prevent workers from being exploited...

    Maybe this would mean that we may have to pay that extra dollar because of the increase in production cost..

    I am willing to live with that!
    odyssey82
  • The only news here is that people ...

    ... have the nerve to act shocked. Almost everything you buy today is built in China. Why do you suppose that is? It is certainly not because the shipping costs are less!

    Who is to blame? The consumer is! People want cheap. That is why Walmart is the largest retailer in the world!

    The good news is that the situation rights itself. As more manufacturing migrates to a third world country so do the dollars. The standard of living rises along with the wages and that country becomes a consumer nation. The jobs then migrate to the next third world country.
    ShadeTree
    • the nerve to act shocked

      You don't think the consumer is genuinely shocked when they hear allegations of this type? There may be an apathetic portion of the consumer base, but if more were aware just how ubiquitous the use of this kind of labor is, they wouldn't be comfortable buying from companies like this. And you blame the consumer instead of the corporation... Of course the customer is looking for the most inexpensive product!
      But guess what... Apple is not the most inexpensive product. So how does that put blame on the consumer? Should we all conduct our own investigations by flying out to international plants across the world and inspecting their conditions?

      The truth is, no matter how expensive or inexpensive the product is, that doesn't guarantee that is hasn't been produced by exploited labor. Watch "The Corporation" and you'll see that this isn't thhe case. There may be a correlative connection at most but most everything you buy at Wal-Mart should be highly suspect.

      Also, what happens when the jobs migrate to the third world country? The jobs that the people depended on to barely get by disappear and then magically they become self-reliant? A little common sense and research will tell you that this isn't how growing a powerful local economy works. It does help corporations though.
      John Campbell
      • A bit naive!

        If you didn't know that everything was being made in China or the history of Human rights there then you must be sleepwalking through life or you just don't care. Is it really amazing to you that wages are much lower in China or that they work long hours? Is it the fact they live in dorms you object to?

        As for blaming the consumer, now that you have made this enlightened discovery, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to boycott Apple or products from other companies that manufacture in China?

        As to the jobs that are lost, where have you been. Is it news to you that this is happening? Where have you been?
        ShadeTree
        • The business of bad ethics

          You're right. You have the moral high ground. Pride yourself on your reasoning. Assume my naivete. I must assume all products are made using exploited labor and simply deal with it. I must be stupid. Thank you for pointing that out. But had you simply read my posts you would know that it isn't news to me that a vast majority of companies are doing this. If your opinion is that we should elect apathy and inaction, then why care enough to post it? Just because I appear "shocked" doesn't mean I'm ignorant of the issue. We should be shocked at all human rights abuses.

          Where have I been? I'm right here. I'm someone who gives a damn. And you are someone who elects, passionately I might add, to divert your energies toward a defeatist attitude. Blame the consumer and not the corporation. You can ask me where I've been till you're blue in the face. You can accuse me of being stupid as you have so obviously done.
          Why don't you lick me?
          John Campbell
          • There is a difference between shocked and outraged!

            Shock is a reaction to something you didn't know was happening. I do not think people should be shocked by this! You may vary well feel outraged but unless you boycott products being sold by these companies then I would question your moral conviction. Every time the consumer buys one of these products they are saying it is okay to exploit. That is why I asked what you proposed to do about it.

            You might also think about getting a thicker skin if you wish to engage in discourse on a public forum. Don't take things so personally.
            ShadeTree
  • M$ or Zen planted this rumor

    Just like when the Amway distributor started the rumor-cum-
    urban legend about P&G and Satanism.
    d_v
  • Most US-based tech companies are responsible

    I've been in the business of working with Asian factories in a half
    dozen countries, and China is by far the most restrictive in terms
    of labor law. Workers can't regularly work more than 36 hours of
    overtime a month without their management breaking the law.
    No other country imposes such tight requirements. The result is
    that overtime for legally managed companies in China is the
    lowest in Asia. Every US-based company I worked with was
    following the rules. I have not done any business with Apple.

    If Apple's manufacturing partners are violating that law (and
    some Taiwanese companies do exploit local corruption to get
    away with it), then by all means they are not playing by the rules
    of most other US-based companies who manufacture in China.
    Many of the US tech companies have signed up to the Electronic
    Industry Code of Conduct that prohibits worker exploitation. The
    current members are: Celestica, Cisco,
    Dell, Flextronics, Foxconn, HP, IBM, Intel, Jabil, Lucent,
    Microsoft, Sanmina SCI, Seagate,
    Solectron and Sony.

    I happen to know that most of those companies had to revise
    their Asia operations to comply.

    Note that Apple is not listed. I have done no work with Apple or
    its affiliates or partners. My only knowledge about Apple is the
    article referenced here, and I can't judge the veracity of its
    claims.

    I will say that if Apple is allowing illegal manufacturing practices,
    then by all means we consumers should bring pressure to bear.
    I'd hate to feel obligated to move my business back to Dell, etc.
    just to avoid this problem, but Apple might be in trouble here.

    Lastly, China manufacturing wages are in the US$ 80-100 a
    month range, but that doesn't include substantial contributions
    to housing and social welfare. EICC compliant companies are
    among the best paying companies in China. Yes, it looks like
    chicken feed, but the (predominately) young women who work in
    the factories for 5 years or so are able to buy homes and start
    small businesses when they return to their villages. They get to
    save all that money, which is why they prefer to live in the
    dormitories. The competition for those jobs is intense.

    So don't judge the apparent low wages so harshly. US$ 80-100
    IS pretty good by local standards (although the $50 reported is a
    bit low). Judge instead the working hours and conditions. If the
    article is correct about the 15 hours a day, then Apple's
    manufacturing partners are not following the local laws.
    shadar1101