I bought my first iPhone 3G a couple of years ago. About two weeks after purchasing mine, Apple announced that they were coming out with a newer version, the 3Gs. With the advances in the new phone, my phone was antiquated before I knew it. I didn’t see the appeal at all…I was not impressed as it was slow and had a terrible signal. That was until I was finally able to upgrade a year or so ago to the IPhone4 (Yes, they have since come out with 4s, and I am eligible to upgrade but there aren’t too many differences between the two so my plan is to wait until the 5 comes out). Since then, this phone has become an extension of body. I have pretty much become the person I couldn’t stand who was always playing with his/her fancy new phone. This phone does so much. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t check my email, the weather, text during a meeting, look something up on wikipedia the minute a question pops into my head, or waste my time on Facebook and playing Words with Friends or Angry Birds. I am a total iPhone addict.
Over the last few months, the findings of an investigation into Foxconn have brought to light the working conditions of its employees. Foxconn, based in China, is a major manufacturer of consumer electronics like the iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Xbox, and other über popular products. According to the news reports, workers live eight to a room in dormitories, work up to 36 hour shifts, and make less than a dollar an hour. Any worker who expresses an objection or tries to form a union can be sentenced to prison. The factory has an increasing number of suicides. Foxconn has responded by installing nets around the buildings.
Like most news stories, the morality of these working conditions depend on which news outlet you listen to. The pro-human rights news calls for boycotts of the products until conditions change, while the pro-business news thinks the public should continue to buy the products to keep these workers in a job that they wouldn’t otherwise have. I’m not a financial whiz by any stretch of the imagination, but I guess I don’t understand why both the human rights and the successful business can’t co-mingle in this scenario. With a company like Apple, that is worth more than $300 Billion, how is it that they can’t find a heart somewhere in all that money and make sure that these people are better taken care of…at least to the point that they’d rather live than thrown themselves off the roof.
With the presidential election quickly coming upon us, we hear a lot of the candidates speaking out about “bringing the jobs back to America” and that businesses need the tax breaks to do that. It seems to me that no matter the tax break, these companies are making bank in other countries that allow the working conditions described above. Not having pesky labor laws like we do in this country allows the business to make way more money than they would if the jobs were based here. Sure, maybe the people in these countries are just happy to have jobs, but that still doesn’t make it right.
And now I have to decide if and when the iPhone 5 comes out am I’m willing to take the “out of sight, out of mind” approach and upgrade as I had planned, or if I will take a stand and not purchase the product until the situation is taken care of. Sadly, though, I think most of the products we buy these days come from manufacturing companies like Foxconn. Even if one is boycotted, there are probably a hundred more waiting for your business. I wonder if my boycott of one would even matter.