It has become the raging news topic, have you caught it? It was not only in the New York Times Sunday front page, which is inserted into the Sunday edition of The Independent. It was also in the Sunday Edition of The Guardian, one of many newspapers in the United Kingdom. A US broadcaster ran a feature length piece on the issue with CBS Sunday Morning. Maybe you missed it, the hot topic is the revelation of working conditions in Apple's factories in China.
I have to be honest with you in that I feel bad for the public relations department at the Cupertino, CA headquarters of Apple, I don't think they are getting much sleep. But then again, maybe for the first time they are beginning to experience the average working day for anyone of the 230,000 employees at their factory in Shenzhen.
The revelations have hit fever pitch at a particularly awkward time as well. Apple just announced their earnings for 2011, $110 billion in revenue, nearly $26 billion in profit. They have become the most valuable company in the world. Move over BP, this tech giant has come to claim the crown. Things get lonely at the top and Apple is perched upon an empire which shows no signs of crumbling anytime soon.
But once you combine their success with what is being reported regarding their factories, run by Foxconn, your stomach should turn. Journalist began investigating the conditions after reports of several suicides and plant explosions emerged. What was thought could only be rumors were confirmed: suicides were rampant with employees throwing themselves off buildings, conditions were terrible as employees cleaned the gleaming computers with toxic chemicals and two explosions killed four and sent nearly 90 to the hospital.
Apple's response? Well, it will go down as a record failure. Foxconn, the managers of the factory, responded by saying the suicide rate at their factories is actually lower than the national average. Plus they've installed safety netting around all buildings to catch any future jumpers. That is so generous!
The pieces also highlighted how Apple went from a company proudly declaring all products were made in the US to having no remaining manufacturing operations on American shores by 2004. An Apple board member responded to the question by saying, "Listen, the Chinese factories give us a flexibility that we could never have in an American factory." He went on to recall how they were able to mobilize several thousand factory workers at 12 midnight to make last minute changes to the iPhone before its launch. The workers, who were awoken from their factory dormitories, were kindly treated to a biscuit and a tea before starting their 12 hour shifts. Did the board member of a major company just say that, really?
We should be clear, Apple is not the only transgressor. There are many more, honestly, take your pick. Anything made over there carries the fingerprint of this brutality. They're all guilty. We're all guilty! How tragic is that? Have we become so engrossed in our rampaging consumerism so as to demean human life to this extent? It was once commented, "We use to use things and love people, now we love things and use people." What a shame. Because while things will always mesmerize and captivate, the most mesmerizing and captivating thing out there is the one made in God's image. That'd be you, me and the factory worker in China.