Freshly Squeezed OpEd: … Or We Will All Go Down Together

Feb 17, 2012 | OpEd | 0 comments

The people that are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. And this is the chance for Apple to create a seismic change that could directly affect people’s lives for the better globally.
But, we the consumer, have to be part of that transformation.

Apple has deservedly come under fire for creating a consumer electronics juggernaut on the backs of exploited workers. Employees of some suppliers have complained of 10-hour shifts with only one permitted break, among other irresponsible tasks. Over the past several years, there have been multiple unsuccessful, and sadly some successful, suicide attempts. Also included, hundreds of injuries from volatile chemicals and other factors, plus living conditions reminiscent of slave ships.
Apple has undeservedly been singled out because they are the technological Goliath. Many other brands, such as ACER, Amazon, AT&T, Cisco, Dell, eBay, Facebook, Fortinet, Hewlett-Packard, IAC, IBM, Juniper, Lenovo, McAfee, Motorola, News Corp, Nokia, Nokia Siemens, Oracle, Research In Motion, SAP, Siemens, Skype, Sprint Nextel, Toshiba, Twitter, Verizon, Vodafone and Websense are equally guilty of the same abuses. But they don’t make for as juicy a headline as the Big Man on Campus.
Luckily, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin recognizes this and wants information from Apple and the other companies, as well, detailing their human rights practices in China. Mr. Durbin requested the information following Google’s announcement that it planned to stop cooperating with China’s Internet censorship policies. Kudos to Google.

To correct this terrible situation is going to take effort on parts of both the manufacturer and the buyer.
First, Apple has to demand fair wages and hours for the people who construct all of Apple’s products. (All manufacturers need address these issues, not Apple alone.) If the employees are going to help Apple achieve their lofty goals, they have to reward the workers for being integral in achieving these goals. This will mean that Apple has to spend more money on the process, both humanely and professionally. I think that they should be willing to reduce their profit margins, particularly in light of the pile of cash they rest upon.
Second, consumers have issues facing them.

  • If we want to own the best technology on the market, we have to be willing to pay higher prices. (i.e., BMWs cost as much as they do for a reason.)
  • If Apple can afford to match employee’s charitable donations, surely they can assure their employees a reasonable wage and safe working environment. Naturally, this will cost money. How to accomplish this? Perhaps a combination of actions, such as a reasonable price increase and a reduction in profit margins. I’m not of a business mind, so I am sure they could find a more creative solution.

It would also be nice if Apple could return some jobs to the States, during these tough economic times. Perhaps keeping all refurbishing and recycling jobs at home. Or creating Apple second-hand stores?

All I know is that Apple and its consumers are going to have to right these wrongs as a unified front. And it can be done, because the people that are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.


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