Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory

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slnko-v-sieti

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Aug 24, 2011
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Listen to this podcast and let me know what you think. I've submitted it to MacRumors, 9to5 Mac, and Cult of Mac, and am wondering if anyone will post it.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/454/mr-daisey-and-the-apple-factory

Act One: Mister Daisey Goes to China

Mike Daisey performs an excerpt that was adapted for radio from his one-man show "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." A lifelong Apple superfan, Daisey sees some photos online from the inside of a factory that makes iPhones, starts to wonder about the people working there, and flies to China to meet them. His show restarts a run at New York's Public Theater later this month. (39 minutes)

Act Two: Act One

What should we make of what Mike Daisey saw in China? Our staff did weeks of fact checking to corroborate Daisey's findings. Ira talks with Ian Spaulding, founder and managing director of INFACT Global Partners, which goes into Chinese factories and helps them meet social responsibility standards set by Western companies (Apple's Supplier Responsibility page is here), and with Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times who has reported in Asian factories. In the podcast and streaming versions of the program he also speaks with Debby Chan Sze Wan, a project manager at the advocacy group SACOM, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, based in Hong Kong. They've put out three reports investigating conditions at Foxconn (October 2010, May 2011, Sept 2011). Each report surveyed over 100 Foxconn workers, and they even had a researcher go undercover and take a job at the Shenzhen plant. (15 minutes)
 

ericrwalker

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Oct 8, 2008
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Albany, NY
Maybe I will listen to it later, but I love when people hate when American companies support "slave labor", they would rather us make products in the USA (I don't have a problem with that). Though I know when if and when companies pull out of those countries, those "underpaid" workers are now unemployed, not to mention "underpaid" by our standards is probably better than average over there (and that's probably why a lot of people work there).

So when we bring all manufactoring back to the USA, then what? More foreign aid to this poor people? Welfare > jobs?
 

slnko-v-sieti

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Aug 24, 2011
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I think that's an extremely reductive framing of the issues discussed in-depth in the podcast. :/
 

MattOfStLouis

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Jan 7, 2012
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I think Act One offers a pretty unsophisticated view of factory work in China. Act Two does a good job of providing context.

A couple of points that they don't cover enough:

- The vast majority of workers in Shenzhen are transplants from villages in central China. These people are moving from (near subsistence) farming to factory work. That's a significant jump in income and quality of life. No one is forced to work in a factory. They choose that line of work because it is the best available option.

- Factory workers put in long hours but this is partly employee driven. Peter Hessler has a good description of this in Country Driving. He follows a factory owner that tells potential workers that they will get "10 hours a day and no more than one day's vacation each month" and at other factories the workers "might get stuck with only forty hours a week". The extra hours are actually a positive for applicants and the owner fears that he won't get enough workers if he promises them a standard work week.

- China has poor & uneven enforcement of its laws and that's not changing anytime soon. This results from the scale of China and from issues with the structure of their government. Underage labor is a problem that is also driven, by some extent, by the desire of teenagers to get work. If a well-meaning company cracks down on underage labor in their supply chain, they are pushing underage workers to factories that do not care as much about compliance. The effect is to push underage workers into worse working conditions. I completely agree with the sentiment against underage working, but consequences matter.

EDIT: I should add that Mike Daisy (the guy from the First Act) is fairly clear about the facts that he only spent a short amount of time in China, doesn't speak the language and his wasn't conducting an rigorous survey. I think that's useful to get the discussion started, but maybe not for drawing conclusions.
 
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Votekinky06

macrumors 6502
Jun 10, 2011
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I am disturbed, but surely not surprised. It has gotten me started googling around to learn more about the subject, but I can't draw any conclusions without knowing how the quality of life for these workers is compared to what it could be. You can strive for, but not expect working conditions to be up to US standards everywhere.
 

slnko-v-sieti

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Aug 24, 2011
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@MattOfStLouis: I'll check out Hessler's Country Driving.

So far I've seen this posted on AppAdvice and Plantizen, but those are the only two places. Given the deep insights into how/who assembles our beloved electronics, you'd think it would be burning up the Mac blogosphere.
 
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