There has been a lot of news recently about Apple and their relationship to the factory workers in China. Many reports have been coming out about the worker mistreatment in these factories, the little money they earn, the long hour shifts, and the most disturbing of all, the suicides by the workers in the Foxconn plant. This American Life dedicated an entire show to the topic which profiles Mike Daisy and his one man show titled The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. N+1 Magazine also published a powerful essay on the subject titled Outsourcing Jobs. The NyTimes also did a pair of articles. A series they titled the iEconomy. One tackles the subject of why Americans didn’t get these jobs, How the US Lost out on iPhone Work, and the other about the general worker mistreatment, In China, Human Costs are Built into an iPad.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an Apple fan or not, this is concerning. This should concern you. If you’re into computers and gadgets, this should concern you. Because if you read the articles you’ll see that factories like Foxconn don’t just make stuff for Apple, but for other companies like Dell, HP, and others. And it’s not a political thing. Deciding not to buy an Apple product wont make things better. But being aware of it might help a bit.
So why this focus on Apple, since other technology companies also outsource to third world countries? One answer is that they’re the top dogs right now. But I also think it’s because Apple, at least for us Apple partisans,(see episode 46 of Hypercritical), should do better. It’s a company that is held in a higher esteem because they represent higher values. They’re mission is not just to make a profit, or to just make beautiful computers and gadgets. They exist “to change the world.” Right?
So I’m surprised, and a bit disappointed, when John Gruber the other day linked to the NyTime article. I’m disappointed because in that link-post, Gruber did what he’s constantly being accused of doing. Even without saying anything, because all he did was link to the article, paste a negative pull quote, and link to Tim Cook’s email. What he did was very Apple partisan of him, or more colloquially, very Apple fanboy of him. Sure, an email from Tim Cook responding that Apple cares is “objectively” refuting what was in the quote, but that’s it? That’s all he’s going to say about it?
Maybe Gruber doesn’t feel qualified to tackle a complex subject such as human rights and working conditions in third world countries. But he could, if he wanted to. And you kind of expect him to. All those words and in depth analysis he has given to the iBooks EULA thing, or the iPhone mute/ring wars. He could give at least a couple of paragraphs. Maybe I’m being full of shit here, and he does have something in the works, being that he was at Macworld this past week, but till now all he gave us was a link. At least for me, that is not enough and his opinion on this is as important to me, and even more so, as his opinion on if force-quitting iOS apps really makes the iPhone faster.
*Update – Gruber did had some great stuff to say on the latest The Talk Show.