“These Jobs Aren’t Coming Home”
Last year President Obama met with Steve Jobs and other major leaders in the Tech world and asked what it would take to bring their factories home and hire American workers. Steve Jobs answer was clear: “these jobs aren’t coming home.” [NY Times 1/22/2012]
“…The president’s question touched upon a central conviction at Apple. It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products…”
This week President Obama continued that conversation in his SOTU : “My message is simple. It’s time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America…” Based on investigative reports surfacing from China’s huge factory communities, the President better place strengthening OSHA and other regulatory systems just as high on his agenda.
ROI vs. Human Costs
Bringing factories and employment back to the U.S. will require a huge change in the standard fiduciary role of corporate Boards whose goal is to demand continued economic growth. Apple recently released their audit on working conditions in the foreign factories they use for outsourcing These reports reveal that the concerns of Apple’s C-Suite to keep baseline costs low enough to ensure growth and returns for their investors falls tragically short when it comes to human costs.
Apple said audits revealed that 93 supplier facilities had records indicating that over half of workers exceeded a 60-hour weekly working limit. Apple said 108 facilities did not pay proper overtime as required by law. In 15 facilities, Apple found foreign contract workers who had paid excessive recruitment fees to labor agencies. And though Apple said it mandated changes at those suppliers, and some showed improvements, in aggregate, many types of lapses remained at general levels that have persisted for years…In the last two years at companies supplying services to Apple, 137 employees were seriously injured after cleaning iPad screens with n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause nerve damage and paralysis; numerous workers have committed suicide, or fallen or jumped from buildings in a manner suggesting suicide attempts; and in two separate explosions caused by dust from polishing iPad cases, four were killed and 77 injured. [more NYTimes 1/13/2012
We’re all partially to blame. There are three Apple computers in my house. And, yes, I can’t resist browsing through even the smallest Apple stores to check out new gizmos. But, the solution doesn’t have to require that we go cold turkey shaking and shivering trying not to touch our smart phones one more time. In an earlier post I talked about playwright Mike Daisey’s solo show that brings awareness to the suicides and working conditions in Foxconn – one of the gigantic factory communities that builds Apple products [more]
“Daisey is talking with Wozniak “about the possibility of creating a nonprofit to do oversight, independent inspections that don’t exist right now of the labor conditions in these foreign factories. Things can change. There could be cruelty-free and humane electronics. Then consumers can make more informed choices.” [more The Seattle Times 4/16/2011]