I love Apple products—I've had one at home since before the Macintosh. But I've just told Apple that I won't buy any more of their products until they improve foreign laborers' working conditions by 11 percent. Just 11 percent.
Why? Because every Apple product contains a component that nobody—not even you or I—wants to talk about: a few drops of concentrated human suffering.
Here's what I mean, taken from a recent New York Times article. It's about a college graduate, Lai Xiaodong:
Mr. Lai was soon spending 12 hours a day, six days a week inside the factory, according to his paychecks.... When his days ended, he would retreat to a small bedroom just big enough for a mattress, wardrobe and a desk.... Those accommodations were better than many of the company’s dorms, where 70,000 Foxconn workers lived, at times stuffed 20 people to a three-room apartment, employees said.
Imagine such a life—72-hour workweeks, horrible living conditions, and for what? A salary of "around $22 a day...more than many others," reported the New York Times.
In May 2011, after 6 months in this job, 22-year-old Lai Xiaodong, died in an explosion at work.
Lai Xiaodong died building iPads.
I have an iPad.
Is this a horrible story? Undoubtedly, but it stands for many, many others. Here's another, from the New York Times article:
Some workers’ legs swelled so much they waddled. “It’s hard to stand all day,” said Zhao Sheng, a plant worker.
Is Apple the only company with this problem? No. Every electronic product you and I own contains those terrible drops of concentrated human suffering.
Is it unfair to single Apple out? Perhaps. But Apple is a leader, and the company has already shown it wants to do better. And what Apple does, other companies will be pressured to do, too.
But here's the thing: Apple needs our help to do the right thing.
WHERE YOU COME IN
Capitalism doesn't care about what happens to anybody. (You've probably experienced this in your own life.) It's cruel because it's blind. All it can see is profit and loss of profit. So the only thing that will work is to show a company that it will lose money until it changes.
This petition tells Apple, "You may save a few dollars in costs, but you've just lost, well, a lot more." If you don't buy an iPad, that's between $500 and $830. If you don't buy an iPhone 4S, Apple loses $200 to $400, plus Apple's share of the two-year service contract—over $1,900. (And if Apple gets its traditional 30 percent cut, that brings its loss to between $800 and $1,200 per iPhone 4S!)
Many of us are becoming uncomfortable with the fact that a thin film of concentrated suffering coats our fancy gadgets, with which we all have an increasingly personal relationship. They're part of our style; they say something about who we are.
I don't like the idea that not just hard work, but actual suffering went into something that makes my life more fun. Imagine a life with 12-hour workdays that leave you aching, or worse; a cramped, shabby place to sleep; the real possibility of long-term health risk—all for around $3 a day, or less? That's more than just wrong—it's monstrous.
Read the petition. If you agree with it, sign it. Each signed petition becomes a separate email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, which Apple has set up for you to voice your concerns.
Can you imagine the effect of 100,000 emails? Another change.org petition has sent over 140,000 emails to Apple.
Can we beat 140,000? I think we can. I think it's important to let Apple know what they stand to lose.
Thanks for your attention.
(image by "Aaron Escobar ♦ (the spaniard)™," Creative Commons license)