“i Want An Ethical Apple”

UPDATE (MARCH 6TH): APPLE’S CEO, TIM COOK, WILL EARN $378 MILLION IN 2012. YES, THAT’S MILLIONS (BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK, 2/20 – 2/26/2012)

Wouldn’t you just kill for a new Apple iPad? Apparently, workers in China who assemble iPads will and do. So much so that Foxconn Technology Group who makes iPads for Apple forced workers to sign “suicide pledges” after a rash of suicides in an iPad plant. Demand for iPads is so great that workers were required (“strongly encouraged”) to take only one day off for every 13 days they worked. And, many of these days were 10-15 hours of mind-numbing labor. Lower performing workers are routinely humiliated in public to increase their productivity (www.consumerist.com). All this for about $ 5 per day, yes, $5 per day.

Chinese factory workers earn, collectively, about eight dollars for each iPad that rolls off the assembly line – that’s 2 % of the cost of the least expensive iPad. In contrast, Apple reaps about $150 in revenue for every iPad2 it sells (www.csmonitor.com).

iPhones and iPads have been so good to Apple that it is now the biggest company in the world with a market capitalization of $507.7 billion. That’s a half a trillion dollars. Exxon Mobile is a distant second with a market cap of a measly $409.11 billion (www.pcmag.com). It’s hard to believe Americans spend more on iPhones, iPads, and Macs then we do on oil and gas!

The question of the day is this: Is it ethical for us to buy iPhones and iPads from a company that has $98 billion in savings when its workers are working themselves to death, or working in extreme conditions for the princely sum of $5 per day? Consumption is a moral matter; how we spend our money affects others. It appears that it is time for us to start shopping for a better world.

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19 Responses to “i Want An Ethical Apple”

  1. Molly Miles says:

    No one is forcing these people to work at this plant. Obviously, the job provides some sort of benefit (food, shelter, support for their families) that they cannot get elsewhere. Also, while $5 a day seems to be atrociously low for us here in the United States, that might be a high wage for the particular area of China the plant is located in. There is not enough information to determine if that is a fair wage for the region or not. Like I said, people continue to work there, so it must not be all bad.

    Also, do we really know that the suicides are related to their work at the Apple plant? Or is there some other reason for the suicides? This is not clear in the post, so it appears to me that two un-related events could be being connected. I just find it hard to believe a human being would choose to commit suicide over a situation that could be easily gotten out of, but I’m not knowledgeable enough on Chinese culture to say for sure.

    Additionally, a few consumers choosing not to buy iPods/iPads, etc. isn’t really going to help the situation even if it is as bad as it’s portrayed. The majority will still buy, and if they don’t buy that, they’ll buy something else made in China.

    So that’s just my thoughts………

  2. Anne says:

    Bravo!! Apple should be more ethical in the treatment and pay they dole out to employees in foreign countries. Are we as Americans ready to stand up for these people by not purchasing products that are made by companies with such practices?

  3. Kathryn Zollars says:

    Reading this makes me so sad. The world has become so concerned with mass production, many companies and customers don’t think twice about who is producing these products and how they are being treated. Now, this is not to say that workers should make an inflated amount, but $5 a day? Really? I’m glad Apple is successful but with all of that success, they should use some of their enormous profits to help their workers. After all, they are the people who work hard to create their products and keep up with the high demand.

  4. jim_roberts says:

    Hallelujah – I think you’re on to something.

  5. jim_roberts says:

    But they are being forced – we work because we are hungry and will take anything that puts food on our plates. And, $5.00 per day is a pittance. Korean workers earn approximately $32.00 for each iPad they produce. it appears that Foxconn takes advantage of any situation they can and pays as little as the market will bear – not a very ethical practice. The suicides were tied to the grueling conditions and long hours these lowly paid workers endured to meet the West’s demand for iPads, etc. Apple has so much money that tits current CEO stated that they have so much money they don’t know what to do with it. I have a good idea – pay your workers a living wage. Just because people are willing to work for a certain wage doesn’t mean that wage is morally ehtical. Apple removes itself from the equation by farming out the production of iPads, etc. to another company fully aware that the company is abusing its workers. Thanks for your thoughtful post. We all have to make up our minds about the ethical implications of our behavior as consumers and human beings.

  6. Coridon says:

    Great piece! I hate the idea of anyone being forced to live this way. I hope we see a decrease in this terrible practice as the economy continues to improve.

  7. Sarah Chankaya says:

    These kinds of situation is common among fashion knock off manufacturers as well; child labor, unethical treatment of workers, unreasonable low wages, etc. News pertaining to the mistreatment of workers isn’t exactly “new” to our ears yet there’s still a demand for these products. I think too many of us are blinded by the immediate “cool” factor that a certain product or a brand has to offer and fail or even refuse to think about the human labor that went into manufacturing it.

  8. Allyson says:

    I agree that Foxconn is probably taking advantage of the situation by paying these workers the least amount possible because they know there will always be another worker who will work for $5 a day to replace a worker who quits, or commits suicide in this case. As the richest company in the world, there is absolutely no excuse Apple can come up with that will be a reasonable explanation for why the company cannot pay more than $5 a day to these Chinese workers. There are many alternatives that Apple could explore that could help humanize their practices and avoid the 15 hour days, limited days off, and ultimately the suicides of their workers. It will take money away from the company- that is a fact. But correcting these working conditions also might help Apple’s reputation which might increase sales from customers who have avoided buying their products because of ethical concerns.

  9. Bobby Draughn says:

    It is so crazy how Apple can do such a thing to the people who make their products. I believe Apple should think about this issue a lot more because I believe it is very unethical they are doing this to their workers. Hopefully in the near future they will change this problem and increase their pay. They deserve more for the products they make.

  10. kodeks pracy says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way…

  11. jim_roberts says:

    There are many of us but are voice is often lost in the din of consumerism. Be sure to spread the word about my blog and you might enjoy my book, Shiny Objects. Have a great day.

  12. Kristin Allinson says:

    It is sad that Apple wouldn’t give the people who make their product more than a 2% cut. However, I do wonder if $5 is actually unfair in the part of China where these plants are. Just because that’s outrageous to us in the states doesn’t always mean it translates to the same for other countries.
    I think Molly put it best in saying we don’t know a lot about how the Chinese culture works, but could they not look for jobs elsewhere if their working conditions are so horrible?

  13. Griselda says:

    Has Apple said anything in response to all this information?

    I cannot even imagine $378 Million.
    Also, I understand the points that have been made in the comments, but it is easier said than done to just quit and find a new job. The time it takes to transition to a new job is money lost and some families cannot risk that.

  14. Logan Angel says:

    First of all it is crazy to believe that some Americans complain about how much they have to work – usually 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. When in comparison the people working in the apple plant in China are “strongly encouraged” to take just one day off every 13 days after working 10-15 hours at a time. And the bad working conditions and string of suicides is another sad thing to have to imagine. Americans can identify that this is a huge problem but have a hard time relating to it. We may feel a bit of remorse or a sense that we need to try and make a difference, but I honestly believe that it will never hinder sales of apple products. We are a country of mass consumers that love our technology. iPods, iPhones and iPads are extremely popular; its going to take more than knowledge of whats going on in plants overseas to change that.

  15. Daniel Williams says:

    Reading this is really sad. Whats even worse about this is that I do not think that anything will change. We as Americans, myself included, have become so accustomed to consuming the things that we want when we want them and solely operating on our own selfish nature. I’m sure there are still many Americans who don’t know these working conditions. Its sad to say, but I also do not feel that making this information public will affect much. Like I said, we like to consume products when we want them. Because the demand for Apple products is so high, I do not see this trend stopping. Because we are not immediately affected, or witnessing these harsh conditions, we tend to forget about them, or not even care at all.

  16. Clare Berlinsky says:

    I’m torn, because I LOVE Apple products.

    However, I completely agree that it is time that our generation starts to raise the bar, and believe it or not, we are the consumers, therefore we have a voice.

    WHAT IF? We just stopped buying apple products, and demanded that they raise the salaries in mass production before we start to consume them again. We are the driving force of their market, without us, their success would cease to exist. We actually have the potential to change something if we all took a step outside of ourselves and saw the bigger picture and the opportunity we have to change the world.

    Sadly, most people, especially my generation, is obsessed with materialism, obsessed with trendy technology, obsessed with “stuff”. They don’t care what means the companies take to get it to them, as long as we have them.

  17. Tyler Minchew says:

    This is crazy. How does a company that large pay such low price to make a premium product?

  18. William Alford says:

    It is truly unbelievable to think about the conditions that people work in in third world countries. What is even crazier is thinking about the conditions that people work in to make such a high class product for first world countries. I think that boycotting apple would morally be a good thing to do. Having said that, there wouldn’t be nearly enough people to perform the boycott to where it would be heard. So the next choice I would think for apple would be to make it worth the work. The workers in china are creating a product that millions will by, bar nothing. That being said, would it really be that hard to increase the wages and working conditions for these workers to make it worth their while? It doesn’t seem like that difficult of a decision, but obviously it has not been made yet.

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