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MacBytes
Aug 29, 2006, 07:57 AM
http://www.macbytes.com/images/bytessig.gif (http://www.macbytes.com)

Category: Apple Hardware
Link: Apple iPod manufacturer tries to muzzle press in China (http://www.macbytes.com/link.php?sid=20060829085743)
Description:: This story contains all the juicy ingredients needed to make Western editors excited about a China story: sweat shops, Apple computer and the iPod, and attacks on the freedom of the press. Nonetheless, it seems that no Western news organizations have yet published anything about it.

Posted on MacBytes.com (http://www.macbytes.com)
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AlBDamned
Aug 29, 2006, 10:16 AM
This is crazy. Apple has said - publicly - that there are problems in these factories. So the journalists were right.

Apple has also said the workers earnings are at minimum wage or above. Minimum wage for that area is around 900-1000 Yuan (USD$125), so again, 1000 Yuan is actually better than minimum wage, although it's still pittance. Again, the journalists were right!

Apple seriously needs to reign in Foxconn (not give them more business as they've recently been reported to do), because going after journalists, suing them and freezing their assets when they've stated facts as corroborated by the customer company's own investigation is a joke.

Super Macho Man
Aug 29, 2006, 12:47 PM
This is crazy. Apple has said - publicly - that there are problems in these factories. So the journalists were right.

Apple has also said the workers earnings are at minimum wage or above. Minimum wage for that area is around 900-1000 Yuan (USD$125), so again, 1000 Yuan is actually better than minimum wage, although it's still pittance. Again, the journalists were right!

Apple seriously needs to reign in Foxconn (not give them more business as they've recently been reported to do), because going after journalists, suing them and freezing their assets when they've stated facts as corroborated by the customer company's own investigation is a joke.
This whole "iPod sweatshop" fiasco is like a journalist going to a beach, kneeling down with a microscope and exclaiming "Look! I've found a grain of sand on this beach! In this area, right here!" And all the newspapers exclaim, "Sand found in ___ area on beach!" And it's true - that area of the beach did have sand in it. Is it true - yes. Is it the whole story - no. Does the whole story matter - only to intelligent people.

"Sweatshop conditions found in iPod factories." Ya think? China is a brutal dictatorship. We are talking about Apple moving their business to another Chinese manufacturer which might beat its workers a little less, although with more unpaid overtime. While we are looking at the grains of sand on the beach, the fact remains that Microsoft and Creative and whoever else don't care how much blood is on their players, and will continue to have no problems manufacturing their products wherever it is cheapest. People then buy fewer iPods, and more of the competition, and more Chinese workers get whipped and raped. It's a sorry situation, and I don't know what the solution is, although I do know that Apple taking its business elsewhere would do nothing but screw Apple - certainly not help any workers.

AlBDamned
Aug 29, 2006, 01:37 PM
This whole "iPod sweatshop" fiasco is like a journalist going to a beach, kneeling down with a microscope and exclaiming "Look! I've found a grain of sand on this beach! In this area, right here!" And all the newspapers exclaim, "Sand found in ___ area on beach!" And it's true - that area of the beach did have sand in it. Is it true - yes. Is it the whole story - no. Does the whole story matter - only to intelligent people.

"Sweatshop conditions found in iPod factories." Ya think? China is a brutal dictatorship. We are talking about Apple moving their business to another Chinese manufacturer which might beat its workers a little less, although with more unpaid overtime. While we are looking at the grains of sand on the beach, the fact remains that Microsoft and Creative and whoever else don't care how much blood is on their players, and will continue to have no problems manufacturing their products wherever it is cheapest. People then buy fewer iPods, and more of the competition, and more Chinese workers get whipped and raped. It's a sorry situation, and I don't know what the solution is, although I do know that Apple taking its business elsewhere would do nothing but screw Apple - certainly not help any workers.

Again, as in the thread about greenpeace on Page 1, this is something of an ignorant, blase attitude to a matter that companies these days are taking, or are beginning to take, very seriously. Apple has a Supplier code of conduct (http://media.corporate-ir.net/media_files/irol/10/107357/corpGov/AppleSupplierCoc111305.pdf). If it fails to address issues such as worker treatment in fsactories then that is folly in today's [leading] business environment.

Yes, if Apple and other manufacturers began taking their business from one "sweatshop" to another, it would make little difference (although some factories are better than others), but if Apple and other manufacturers took their business out of the country (or threatened to) and cited bad labor issues as the reason, then that would send a statement to the law enforcers in China. There's a long way to go and Apple has a lot of work to do (as do many of the tech companies), but to say "that's life, deal with it" is an appalling attitude.

Besides, the article specified in this thread concerns Apple's supplier and maker of their best selling and profit leading iPod, Foxconn, who are suing journalists for $3 million and requesting that their assets be frozen because they told the truth and which Apple has actually confirmed is the truth. Where, exactly, in your grain of sand world, does that become acceptable?

bousozoku
Aug 29, 2006, 02:17 PM
There is freedom of the press in China? :D

Do they think they're in the U.S.A.?

FoxConn/Hon Hai Precision shouldn't go overboard but journalists doing a job in China (or any other country) are working under local laws. Even here, abuses are allowed.

Super Macho Man
Aug 29, 2006, 02:54 PM
Again, as in the thread about greenpeace on Page 1, this is something of an ignorant, blase attitude to a matter that companies these days are taking, or are beginning to take, very seriously. Apple has a Supplier code of conduct (http://media.corporate-ir.net/media_files/irol/10/107357/corpGov/AppleSupplierCoc111305.pdf). If it fails to address issues such as worker treatment in fsactories then that is folly in today's [leading] business environment.
How? We live in a Wal-Mart world where people are willing to drive 10 miles extra to get something 50 cents cheaper. We can punish Apple or any company as much as we want for exploiting its foreign workers. Nike took a lot of flak for it years ago, and what happened was that everyone who cared that Nike was selling blood-stained, made-in-Cambodia shoes bought blood-stained, made-in-Cambodia Reeboks instead. This is what we're talking about w.r.t. the iPod and I don't see how it helps anything.

Obviously, any civilized western person should be appalled at Foxconn trying to silence media criticism. But not surprised. This kind of stuff happens all the time in China. Singling out one company makes no sense when it is whole political and economic systems that are at fault.
Yes, if Apple and other manufacturers began taking their business from one "sweatshop" to another, it would make little difference (although some factories are better than others), but if Apple and other manufacturers took their business out of the country (or threatened to) and cited bad labor issues as the reason, then that would send a statement to the law enforcers in China.
Why would they do that? You are an executive at Company X. You manufacture in China because of the extremely low costs, and all of your competitors do also. What incentive do you have to pull out and move your manufacturing to another, more expensive country with stronger labor laws? If Company X is a corporation, your shareholders would hang you high from the nearest tree branch, and if it's not, you would simply lose business and probably eventually go out of business, and one of your competitors would buy your old factory in China and expand into it. So much for protecting the worker, now you have no money or power left and your competitors are beating your former workers harder than ever.

There's a long way to go and Apple has a lot of work to do (as do many of the tech companies), but to say "that's life, deal with it" is an appalling attitude.
I'm sorry but that is life. We want cheap stuff. Really cheap. We don't care where it comes from. Well, more than that, we don't want to know where it comes from. We want to order something, or buy it in a store, and take it out of the box, and be satisfied with our purchase, and give absolutely no thought as to where it was before it was in our house. We want to drive a hybrid and say that we're "environmentally friendly," and we want to walk up two flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator so that we can say we got our exercise in today. That is life in the western world.

Please understand that I'm not making any judgements about what is or isn't acceptable. I said that if Apple actually followed its own code of conduct, it would put its position in the marketplace in jeopardy. Most corporate codes of conduct that go above and beyond the law are pure PR. Exxon-Mobil will tell you it has a commitment to the environment, McDonald's will tell you it has a commitment to healthy living, and Apple will tell you it has a commitment to not beating the crap out of its workers. You don't like this at all, and neither do I. But I don't know what to do about it and I know it, whereas you don't know what to do about it either, but you think you do.

FleurDuMal
Aug 29, 2006, 03:35 PM
I'm sorry but that is life. We want cheap stuff. Really cheap. We don't care where it comes from. Well, more than that, we don't want to know where it comes from. We want to order something, or buy it in a store, and take it out of the box, and be satisfied with our purchase, and give absolutely no thought as to where it was before it was in our house. We want to drive a hybrid and say that we're "environmentally friendly," and we want to walk up two flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator so that we can say we got our exercise in today. That is life in the western world.


Yes, but constantly saying "That's life" in reaction to every imperfection and abuse that is utterly meaningless. In fact, it's not really a reaction - it's a truism. Of course 'that's life'. If it wasn't life, we wouldn't even be discussing it. For some reason, in the West, we persist in fetishising market reasoning; infact, we fetishise what presently exists as market reasoning - no matter how much it may offend any base standards of humanity most people may be able to agree on: "It's disgraceful, but that's the way it is". If the great visionaries that transformed industrial Western society had taken the same attitude, none of us would have universal education, public healthcare, or any other great welfare insitutions that guarantee us some minimum and humane standard of living. The same can be said for the people who fought the great imperial powers during the 19th and 20th centuries - they were also struggling against those who reinforced the inevitability of a global arena based on exploitation and abuse with the words 'that's life'. And today people who argue against inhumane exploitation in the developing world are being rebutted with the exact same reasoning - and everytime the system throws up its vile hidden secrets, anyone who disputes the necessity of that system and attempts to see beyond it will be ridiculed. There's nothing natural in human development about poverty. That's why we call it development.

Infact, even if we are to accept that market logic will always win out, then you can in some ways turn your own argument on its head. On one line you talk about the Wal-Mart psche: our desperation to buy cheap, at whatever human expense. You then go on to say how we are also willing to drive hybrids. If I understand correctly, hybrids are more expensive to run than petrol cars? Even if I'm wrong, the recent boom in ethical shopping represents that going out and blindly buying cheap is only a psychological trend of the consumer. It demonstrates that our choices aren't solely determined by trying to get as much as we can with as little as possible - we can, with great struggle, introduce an ethical dimension into shopping. At the moment this has worked in the two sectors which make up most of ethical shopping - food and clothing - but it is slowly making its way into other areas such as banking. Hopefully, with greater support from international agencies and legislation by national governments, we can facilitate an ethical shopping boom in the electronics area???

AlBDamned
Aug 29, 2006, 04:26 PM
Nike took a lot of flak for it years ago, and what happened was that everyone who cared that Nike was selling blood-stained, made-in-Cambodia shoes bought blood-stained, made-in-Cambodia Reeboks instead. This is what we're talking about w.r.t. the iPod and I don't see how it helps anything.

It's ironic that you bring Nike up because the stance that company has taken since the Kasky lawsuit is actually really impressive. They disclose the sites of all their factories and they're working hard to overcome every single one of the complaints levied against them. Nike is also quick to disassociate itself with things that don't fit with its strategy - look at the breaking of contracts with athletes involved in the doping scandal, for example.

Nike got hammered and came close to losing its place at the top. It spends an absolute fortune (of shareholder profits if you want to put it that way) on monitoring and improving its business...


Why would they do that [threaten to pull out of China]? You are an executive at Company X. You manufacture in China because of the extremely low costs, and all of your competitors do also. What incentive do you have to pull out and move your manufacturing to another, more expensive country with stronger labor laws? If Company X is a corporation, your shareholders would hang you high from the nearest tree branch, and if it's not, you would simply lose business and probably eventually go out of business, and one of your competitors would buy your old factory in China and expand into it. So much for protecting the worker, now you have no money or power left and your competitors are beating your former workers harder than ever.

Why would they do that? Because as public perceptions are changing to become more responsible (you only need to go back to the damage it caused Nike, the massive rise in the money spent on "fair trade" products in the last few years (though that scheme also has its critics), the iPod sweatshop story and even the publicity this latest green report is generating all add to the argument that there's a valid business case for being a responsible company.

Ok, so pulling out of the country might be counter-productive to the company, but actually spending money to improve facilities at these factories (for example, Apple has hired an NGO to monitor these iPod factories - that costs money) then that is something that can work. Yes, it might add a bit to product price (though not yet), but c'mon, is $5 dollars a unit in sale price of an iPod or $10 on a MacBook really going to make all the difference to the consumer, especially when it will allow the company to invest in its supply chain and boast of a green or "fair, ethically produced" product? The pay back is measurable (as Nike will attest) and the damage can be massive. Look at McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Wal Mart - all have suffered because of issues of responsibility recently and they have lost big money because of it.


But I don't know what to do about it and I know it, whereas you don't know what to do about it either, but you think you do.

You don't know what to do about it because you have very little knowledge of the bigger issue at work here. I've seen what can work, from sneaker companies to coffee buyers, I've spoken to and interviewed people involved in massive programs at a very senior levels in corporates and NGOs in massive organizations (think $30+ billion companies) and while some programs are just PR stunts and easily spotted as such (I do actually question the validity of the Apple NGO and the entire Electronic Code of Conduct), there are some great initiatives that have genuine results.

Super Macho Man
Aug 29, 2006, 10:08 PM
It's ironic that you bring Nike up because the stance that company has taken since the Kasky lawsuit is actually really impressive. They disclose the sites of all their factories and they're working hard to overcome every single one of the complaints levied against them. Nike is also quick to disassociate itself with things that don't fit with its strategy - look at the breaking of contracts with athletes involved in the doping scandal, for example.

Nike got hammered and came close to losing its place at the top. It spends an absolute fortune (of shareholder profits if you want to put it that way) on monitoring and improving its business...
Shoes and athletic apparel in Nike's market are probably a lot different from computers, where every cent counts, but, if they can make it work - great! I don't know if Apple can with the iPod. I would imagine that the margins are too small and the competition is too fierce. I would love for that not to be the case. I think you also misunderstand me. I never said anything like "treating workers fairly is bad" or "capitalism is god" or "exploiting Chinese workers is the only option in today's economy." What I've been saying is more along the lines of "punishing one company for doing something that thousands of other companies are doing will have little to no effect on the doing of said thing." Nothing more.

I am skeptical of this "valid business case for being a responsible company" stuff - that's all I am saying. I'm not saying that being a responsible company is a bad thing - certainly I wish all companies were responsible and that being responsible was, in all cases, more profitable than not being responsible. But currently, it often isn't profitable for companies to source their labor from factories that pay their workers a lot more, or work them less hard, than their competitors' factories do. All corporations love money and I just have to assume that the ones that do source from exploitative Chinese factories have performed these calculations and come to the conclusion that it's just not worth it to treat their workers fairly. (The calculations are under lock and key, though - to prevent another Ford Pinto fiasco - and their company mission statements read "we are committed to humane treatment of our workers and we've done ___ and ___ to support worker rights, etc., etc." to appease the media and nosy Human Rights Watch types.)

Ok, so pulling out of the country might be counter-productive to the company, but actually spending money to improve facilities at these factories (for example, Apple has hired an NGO to monitor these iPod factories - that costs money) then that is something that can work. Yes, it might add a bit to product price (though not yet), but c'mon, is $5 dollars a unit in sale price of an iPod or $10 on a MacBook really going to make all the difference to the consumer, especially when it will allow the company to invest in its supply chain and boast of a green or "fair, ethically produced" product?
There is not a single person on earth who will say that they do not respect the both humanity and the environment and say that they do not want to be friendly to these things. But what percentage of these people will buy only organic groceries from a local co-op? What percentage of these people will refuse to drive (autos = huge pollution)? I would love to buy organic. I'm aware that it's supposed to be healthier, taste better, etc. But I've been inside the store and it's so expensive. I shop at the supermarket instead because it's the only place I can get a loaf of bread for 99 cents and a box of cereal for $2. In principle a lot of people would support a MacBook Pro that is $10 more expensive. In practice, the question is how many people woudn't, and would end up changing their purchase decision on a ~$3010 MBP, depriving Apple of ~$1010 in profit on each lost sale and giving it to another computer company instead (if the margins on the MBP are the same as they were on the rev B TiBook in 2002 when I know that on the high-end $3k model they were at least $1000).
The pay back is measurable (as Nike will attest) and the damage can be massive. Look at McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Wal Mart - all have suffered because of issues of responsibility recently and they have lost big money because of it.
I don't doubt that at all. I wonder though if what e.g. Wal-Mart lost is greater than what they've gained by continuing to undercut all of its competitors who themselves have not begun minimizing their own costs and sourcing from China. I kind of doubt it is, which is what I've been saying. I think you understimate the huge number of backwater types who would stop shopping at Wal-Mart if K-Mart sold shotgun shells and home pregnancy tests for 5 cents cheaper. (joke)

You don't know what to do about it because you have very little knowledge of the bigger issue at work here. I've seen what can work, from sneaker companies to coffee buyers, I've spoken to and interviewed people involved in massive programs at a very senior levels in corporates and NGOs in massive organizations (think $30+ billion companies) and while some programs are just PR stunts and easily spotted as such (I do actually question the validity of the Apple NGO and the entire Electronic Code of Conduct), there are some great initiatives that have genuine results.
If this is true, then fantastic! You are more experienced than I and I trust your judgement. It's a big job, and I am skeptical, but I support whatever can be done to improve worker's rights. I say "support" as I sit here salivating over a new Core 2 Duo iMac, which will probably be assembled by a bunch of tortured Chinese children. I am not pleased by that thought at all. But, as I open the iMac box, I will definitely put that out of my mind, as it would introduct a lot of unpleasant cognitive dissonance. If I sound like a monster, I'm only like millions of others, maybe billions, who would love to have a great new computer regardless of where it came from. Who would say they do care, but, in practice, don't "put there money where their mouth is." If Foxconn/Quanta/whoever can treat the iMac factory workers fairly while still pricing it the same or very little more (not too much or I'll have to step down to an iMac, costing Apple profits) - excellent! If not - I'll be buying one anyway. I'll feel guilty about it but, no more than if I had bought any other computer from any other company. :(

kozmic stu
Aug 30, 2006, 09:10 AM
From what I've heard about the situation, the workers at the iPod factory were all being paid at least or above minimum wage and conditions were fine - the only criticisms that were brought up in the report were about a few apartments, off site, that were being lived in by some workers temporarily while better ones were being constructed. These temporary houses 'didn't meet Apple's standard'

Remember, of course, that $125 a month may not sound like much when you pay $300 a week in mortgage payments, but the cost of living is so much lower there that it really isn't as bad a wage as it sounds at first. Factor in that they get housed and fed as well and suddenly it starts to sound no worse, if not better, that working as a waitress in the USA... hmmm...

As far as I can tell, Foxconn are suing these newspapers for LYING about them, which I absolutely agree with. I think some of the Tabloids that we have in the UK should be sued MUCH more often for the lies they print about anything they can get away with. I'm actually quite shocked that you're all happy to simply accept that the newspapers are telling the truth and that it's the companies who are lying. It a bit like the Micheal Jackson case, where, despite the fact that the allegations were made by a person with absolutely no credibility and a jury found him innocent, the JURY MUST be wrong because the papers said so!

Stop having such blind faith in what you hear from the press. They Lie.

Stu

P.S. I'm not saying that large companies won't do anything they can to cut costs, just that we don't actually have to believe that they're all liars and manipulators and that they're all out to hurt people... do we?

bousozoku
Aug 30, 2006, 10:19 AM
I earlier complained about Hon Hai Precision/Foxconn but it was not they who filed suit. It was Hongfujin Precision Industry Co., which is an exporter and another report has labeled them as a subsidiary of Hon Hai but there seem to be conflicting reports.

I'm sure someone's Chinese is better than mine. Perhaps, they can retrieve more information.

tk421
Aug 30, 2006, 01:55 PM
You don't know what to do about it because you have very little knowledge of the bigger issue at work here. I've seen what can work, from sneaker companies to coffee buyers, I've spoken to and interviewed people involved in massive programs at a very senior levels in corporates and NGOs in massive organizations (think $30+ billion companies) and while some programs are just PR stunts and easily spotted as such (I do actually question the validity of the Apple NGO and the entire Electronic Code of Conduct), there are some great initiatives that have genuine results.

So what can I do? And I mean personally, as an individual. If I buy another brand, won't I still be buying something made in bad factory conditions? It's just a different factory with the same story. Aren't all companies about the same?

I'm not trying to debate. I am really sincerely wondering what I can do, because I am appalled at China's human-rights. And I admit, I don't know what to do because I do have very little knowledge of the bigger issues at work.

tk421
Aug 30, 2006, 02:00 PM
From what I've heard about the situation, the workers at the iPod factory were all being paid at least or above minimum wage and conditions were fine - the only criticisms that were brought up in the report were about a few apartments, off site, that were being lived in by some workers temporarily while better ones were being constructed. These temporary houses 'didn't meet Apple's standard'

Remember, of course, that $125 a month may not sound like much when you pay $300 a week in mortgage payments, but the cost of living is so much lower there that it really isn't as bad a wage as it sounds at first. Factor in that they get housed and fed as well and suddenly it starts to sound no worse, if not better, that working as a waitress in the USA... hmmm...

That's also what I understood.

dsnort
Aug 30, 2006, 02:25 PM
Why would they do that? Because as public perceptions are changing to become more responsible (you only need to go back to the damage it caused Nike, the massive rise in the money spent on "fair trade" products in the last few years (though that scheme also has its critics), the iPod sweatshop story and even the publicity this latest green report is generating all add to the argument that there's a valid business case for being a responsible company.

I agree, but the successful stance Nike took didn't happen overnight, neither will Apple be able craft an adequate strategy for dealing with this between the time the story breaks, and the time we begin to discuss it on these forums. Let's give Apple some time to act before we judge them. After all, it wasn't them that attacked the journalist, but their subcontractor.

Ok, so pulling out of the country might be counter-productive to the company...

Just want to point out the possibilty that pulling their business from this factory might also be injurious to the workers. No matter how bad something is, it can always get worse.

macnulty
Aug 31, 2006, 10:47 PM
Again, as in the thread about greenpeace on Page 1, this is something of an ignorant, blase attitude to a matter that companies these days are taking, or are beginning to take, very seriously. Apple has a Supplier code of conduct (http://media.corporate-ir.net/media_files/irol/10/107357/corpGov/AppleSupplierCoc111305.pdf). If it fails to address issues such as worker treatment in fsactories then that is folly in today's [leading] business environment.

Yes, if Apple and other manufacturers began taking their business from one "sweatshop" to another, it would make little difference (although some factories are better than others), but if Apple and other manufacturers took their business out of the country (or threatened to) and cited bad labor issues as the reason, then that would send a statement to the law enforcers in China. There's a long way to go and Apple has a lot of work to do (as do many of the tech companies), but to say "that's life, deal with it" is an appalling attitude.

Besides, the article specified in this thread concerns Apple's supplier and maker of their best selling and profit leading iPod, Foxconn, who are suing journalists for $3 million and requesting that their assets be frozen because they told the truth and which Apple has actually confirmed is the truth. Where, exactly, in your grain of sand world, does that become acceptable?

So why exactly are reporters immune from lawsuits?

macnulty
Aug 31, 2006, 11:03 PM
For some reason, in the West, we persist in fetishising market reasoning; infact, we fetishise what presently exists as market reasoning - no matter how much it may offend any base standards of humanity most people may be able to agree on: "It's disgraceful, but that's the way it is". If the great visionaries that transformed industrial Western society had taken the same attitude, none of us would have universal education, public healthcare, or any other great welfare insitutions that guarantee us some minimum and humane standard of living.

The "market fetish" is consumers making a choice, however when you move people's opinions you can shape their choices. Having said that, universal education, public healthcare and all great welfare institutions strip out humantity bcause the only why they can operate is by the elimination of freedom.