January 10, 2012

The Apple Factory

Really, this isn't just about the Apple factory.

Apple just gets the highlight, because Mike Daisey loves Apple - really, really loves Apple.

This episode of This American Life is a serious must listen for anyone who likes to know where their stuff comes from. I have so many different thoughts after listening to it.

First, I'm no luddite. I'm writing this on a Macbook Pro (a five year old one, but a Macbook Pro none-the-less.) I work on Macs. I have a cell phone. I'm not naive either. I was knowledgeable that my electronics come from China, and probably from a factory, whose working conditions probably aren't the same as the States. It was a bit surprising to realize the scale, though. 400,000 working in a factory? That's almost the size of the Des Moines metro area.

We live in an age where electronics are everywhere. I give up a lot, for a variety of reasons, but I'm not on track to give up my computer. I'll probably need a new one within a few years. Do I value my lappy more than the work environment of someone I'll never meet halfway around the world? As a Christian, I don't think I should. So what is one to practically do?

I'm not sure. Daisey gives a couple of practical solutions to what he sees as fixable problems. For example, employees do the same minuscule task for years, never rotating, and slowly destroying their hands. If they simply rotated tasks, this could avert that. He says all it takes is someone to care. But labor is cheap in China, so if an employee can't work their job after 10 years, there are plenty to take their place.

I was also aware that most factories are warned when ethics auditors come to pay a visit, giving them time to hide anything, such as underage employees. Daisey says doing away with the warning would easily make the audits more realistic.

But what is one person in Iowa, who wants her electronics to be made fairly, to do? I can make a lot, but I'm not going to be able to whip up a computer. Do we demand something different through our wallets? Do I write an email? Where would one even begin, if practically everything is made with such questionable, at minimum practices?

An interesting comment that Daisey also makes. He says something to the effect that there are a lot of people who wish for a more handmade time. But because labor in China is cheaper than most machines, in the factories he toured, everything was technically handmade. I got an ironic kick out of that.

Seriously. Give the episode a listen. It clearly gave me plenty to think about.

1 comment:

littlethingsbigstuff.com said...

so glad you blogged about this! excellent post. I saw the podcast mentioned briefly elsewhere, but I keep forgetting to listen. travelling home this weekend, so I'll get it queued up for the drive!