Jan 23 2012
This weekend the New York Times ran an article about Apple and its production of I-phones overseas. Bottom Line Up Front? Steve Jobs could also be a real s**t when it came to his fellow countrymen:
When Barack Obama joined Silicon Valley’s top luminaries for dinner in California last February, each guest was asked to come with a question for the president.
But as Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke,President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?
Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.
Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.
Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.
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.
As an American-I am insulted by Mr. Jobs logic. Because if you read on in the article you will find that it would appear that the main reason Apple cannot bring the jobs home is because most American workers would refuse to be treated as slaves-and that somehow there is something wrong with that mindset.
An eight-hour drive from that glass factory is a complex, known informally as Foxconn City, where the iPhone is assembled. To Apple executives, Foxconn City was further evidence that China could deliver workers — and diligence — that outpaced their American counterparts.
That’s because nothing like Foxconn City exists in the United States.
The facility has 230,000 employees, many working six days a week, often spending up to 12 hours a day at the plant. Over a quarter of Foxconn’s work force lives in company barracks and many workers earn less than $17 a day. When one Apple executive arrived during a shift change, his car was stuck in a river of employees streaming past. “The scale is unimaginable,” he said.
Foxconn employs nearly 300 guards to direct foot traffic so workers are not crushed in doorway bottlenecks. The facility’s central kitchen cooks an average of three tons of pork and 13 tons of rice a day. While factories are spotless, the air inside nearby teahouses is hazy with the smoke and stench of cigarettes.
Foxconn Technology has dozens of facilities in Asia and Eastern Europe, and in Mexico and Brazil, and it assembles an estimated 40 percent of the world’s consumer electronics for customers like Amazon, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Nintendo, Nokia, Samsung and Sony.
“They could hire 3,000 people overnight,” said Jennifer Rigoni, who was Apple’s worldwide supply demand manager until 2010, but declined to discuss specifics of her work. “What U.S. plant can find 3,000 people overnight and convince them to live in dorms?”
Well, yea-you could not get Americans to put up with that. But ask yourself why they should have to? What Jobs was in fact saying was that, treating people decently and providing a living wage, needed to come second to his impatient deadlines and the need to clear a gazillon dollars in profit. Foxconn has a documented history of trouble and treating its workers like shit. The point of the article is that Apple just couldn’t get that done in the US, and if you read the muted Times’ description of Foxconn, or, better yet, listen to those who have told of visiting Chinese factories, it’s easy to understand why. Those workers live in dorms which house 13-15 people in bunks in 12 by 12 rooms. They officially work 12 hour days, but often work for up to 16 hours a day, for a little more than Chinese minimum wage (about $1.30/hour if my math is right). Turnover at the plants is estimated at 10-20% per month.
What disgusts me the most is that instead of castigating Apple for being an enabler to such inhumanity-there is a whole horde of people who agree with Jobs that it was somehow all right because the ends justified the means. That;s more than just a little wrong-its a criminal mindset. That there are a lot of Americans who agree with this point of view is more than a little disturbing.
Its not true-Americans can and will produce when properly motivated to do so. That they will not allow themselves to be mindlessly taken advantage of is not a flaw-its a feature. The only thing that distiniguishes the United States is its unwillingness to throw a 1/3 of its population under the bus-the way the stinking Chinese have.
And that there are people who think that is the example we should seek to emulate-is another sign the country is losing its mind. I'll say it again-American workers will produce. But they have a right to be fairly compensated for the effort-and they expect to have their private lives and time respected.
And that's the way its supposed to be. Not the other way around.
That's real capitalism and real democracy. Too bad our Galtian overlords have not grasped that. And shame on the Times for not calling it what it is.