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Apple in China: Should we applaud instead of condemn?

Tom Kaneshige | Jan. 31, 2012
Apple publicly names its overseas suppliers. A New York Times article blasts working conditions there. CEO Tim Cook angrily rebukes the charges in an internal memo. Consumers call for a boycott of Apple products.

While we shake our heads at Foxconn's brutal 60-hour work week, double shifts, low pay, suicides, and cramped housing, the article does little to put this into context with the rest of China. Foxconn employs some 1.2 million workers. Its suicide rate is below China's national average. Heck, it might be the dream job destination.

Sure, the article leads with accounts of gruesome accidental deaths at Foxconn that most likely could have been prevented under better safety precautions. But aluminum dust explosions can and do happen everywhere. The article also points out similar deadly accidents that occurred recently at U.S. factories.

Bottom line: A case can be made that Apple and other tech companies have improved working conditions in China. Could Apple do more? Probably. But vilifying Apple for not doing more--even calling for a boycott of Apple products--is the height of hypocrisy.

If you really want to facilitate change, then make your donation to The Student Advocacy Committee, or SACOM, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve labor conditions in China. Consider it a premium on your next consumer electronics purchase. Or else you can do what we always do and shelve your outrage for another year.

After all, the iPad 3 is coming out soon and I know what you're thinking: Come on, Apple, keep the price the same.


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