The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Inc.’

THE POISON APPLE

In our technologically oriented world, if you were to ask most users if they owned at least one product manufactured by Apple, Inc. the answer would come back a resounding, “yes.”  It is accurate to say that the company is the most highly valued (as measured by total share value) of any company in its industry and at one point recently of any company in any industry anywhere in the world.

As you probably know, Apple’s products are not manufactured in the United States but are outsourced to companies primarily in Asia, China being one of its largest suppliers.  Perhaps it is only my impression but I have noticed that people who are really proficient in their reliance on technology tend to be younger, more socially liberal and express their concerns more enthusiastically about equity and equality.

They must be disturbed by the conditions that exist for workers in several of the Chinese plants that manufacture components and products for this technological mega giant.

According to China Labor Watch in a 133 page report released today, the conditions under which Chinese workers are forced to work would have made the textile industry in the U. S. and its demands on its female workers 100 years ago look like a day at a picnic.  In large measure, the conditions in the textile factories gave impetus to the labor union movement in the United States.

The two companies most highly featured in the report are both Taiwanese-owned,  operating manufacturing facilities on the mainland.  They are Foxconn Technology Group and Riteng, a division of Pegatron Corp.  The average wage at Foxconn is $1.60 per hour – at Riteng $1.30.  And you wonder why everything you see on the shelves of our stores in the United States are stamped “Made in China.”

One of the things that the report made clear was that both companies regularly violate the laws regarding overtime.  According to the survey of their findings gathered over a four month period, the average worker at Foxconn works a 10 hour day – and 12 hours at Riteng.  Furthermore, the report cited cases where workers put in as many as 180 hours of overtime per month, far exceeding the 36 hour legal limit established by the People’s Republic of China.

In addition, although the law requires that workers be covered by health insurance, many plants ignore that regulation.

Apple says that it “audits” its suppliers’ compliance closely.  If you want to see the company’s official policy you may click the link below, but don’t be surprised if Apple’s official statement of standards appear to be quite different from the report that China Labor Watch published.

http://www.apple.com/supplierresponsibility/

Giving Apple the benefit of the doubt that they do have standards and audit their suppliers to make sure they comply with them, apparently they need to do a better job evaluating these companies.  That is not unlike J. P. Morgan Chase’s needing to do a better job managing risk internally.

But to play devil’s advocate for a moment – what if Apple’s real motivation is simply making as much profit as possible – and if thousands of workers suffer in that effort, well that’s business?  I’m not advancing that position – but it does represent one possible scenario.  So if that’s the case, what then does the conscientious person concerned about the social welfare of all working people do?

The most effective thing would probably be that when Apple launches a new product, don’t get in the line of eager beavers waiting to purchase it.  And let the company know why you’re not going to buy that product.

But in the meantime, the dedicated Apple user can use the time to contact Apple and express her discomfort with the conditions in their suppliers’ factories; write posts; email friends; and put notices on the social media publicizing the difference between what Apple says it stands for and what it accepts from its suppliers.

Who knows, if the message goes viral, it will no doubt prove an embarrassment to the largest tech company in the world and cause them to demand better working conditions for those who manufacture their products.

Let’s not forget, the plants we are talking about are in China.  And in China, “Saving Face” still means a lot.

IS A PUZZLEMENT

In 1951 the play, “The King And I” premiered on Broadway, the third collaboration between Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II.  The play had a three year run and in 1956 was made into a movie starring Yul Brynner as the King of Siam.  The play has some wonderful songs and has been staged repeatedly in community theaters and in revivals almost non-stop since it’s first performance.

One of the songs that the king sings is entitled, “Is A Puzzlement”.  He has hired an English school teacher to help modernize his view of the world which is, at the play’s beginning, very Siam-centric and to bring him into the modern world of the 1860’s in which the play is set.  But the new ideas which Anna, the teacher brings to him are, in many cases, in conflict with what he has learned and believes.  Yet, he sees some of the truth in what she tells him and he expresses his confusion in “Is A Puzzlement.”

This week Facebook began what Wall Street commonly calls its “Road Show” as it begins to gauge investor sentiment before it becomes  a public company next week.  The purpose of this “Road Show” is to determine how many shares will be issued and what the offering price will be.  Current estimates are that the company will come to market with a value between $75 – $100 Billion, turning founder Mark Zuckerberg who  will retain a 51% controlling interest into another member of the elite 1%.

As I thought about this remarkable public offering, the largest in history, I wondered how the OWS movement might respond to this and to the events which led up to it.  For some reason, the king’s song from the “King and I” came to mind.

In speaking with a number of people who are part of that movement I realize that there is a lot of frustration about the fact that many are mad because they made the effort to earn a college degree, now have the expense of that education hanging over their heads and are unable to find a job using that education.  I can understand that frustration.  Three of the members of the elite 1%, Bill Gates of Microsoft Corp.; the late Steve Jobs of Apple, Inc.; and now Mr. Zuckerberg of Facebook were all college dropouts.   It doesn’t seem fair and truly, “Is A Puzzlement.”

But there is something that the members of OWS can do to express their sense of unfairness.  They can turn off their computers, whether Windows or Apple-based; refuse to buy or use any I-Phones or other Apple products and resign their membership in Facebook.  Since by their own admission they are the 99% and since these companies all depend on large numbers of users for their continued success that should have a profound effect on all these companies’ bottom lines.  Otherwise, OWS members are supporting some of the various entities that they so abhor.

Will this happen?  Will the members of OWS honestly live up to their rhetoric?

Is a puzzlement.

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