Factory workers in China. Wikimedia Commons

By Michael Santo, Tech Buzz Examiner
22 January 2012

Reports such as SACOM's from May of 2011 have shown us of the stresses, low wages, and unsafe conditions of plants such as those used for manufacturing iDevices and other electronics. Yet, on the surface, a New York Times report seems to point to more than just cheap labor as being the reason just about everything is manufacturered overseas. They're right too; it's not just cheap labor; it's virtual slave labor.

The New York Times article is titled "How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work." A few of the points made for Apple using China, and not the U.S.:

  • 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.
  • When Apple redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, […] A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day. “The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”
  • “We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.” [We would modify that statement. As a corporation, their only obligation is to increase shareholder value. That means dismissing the 99 percent, and enhancing the 1 percent. In the long run, when "peak oil" hits with full force, globalization will prove unsustainable and localization will be forced onto people – globally.]
  • “They [Foxconn] 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?”
  • [In a small section of the article, the NYT made Apple into an Occupier's target, with just one sentence, and details to back it up (emphasis ours).] As Apple’s overseas operations and sales have expanded, its top employees have thrived.
  • [More Occupier material.] “Companies once felt an obligation to support American workers, even when it wasn’t the best financial choice,” said Betsey Stevenson, the chief economist at the Labor Department until last September. “That’s disappeared. Profits and efficiency have trumped generosity.” [Interestingly enough, a cynic would say this just proves that companies are human, as Citizens United said. They're greedy and selfish, just as humans are.]
  • “The entire supply chain is in China now,” said another former high-ranking Apple executive. “You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.”

Despite what the article says, the bottom line is still – the bottom line. Claims are that the people in China are more nimble, quicker to adjust when things change. There's a reason for that.

Put 200,000+ people into a "dormitory," and that's the obvious reason for the flexibility. Need to wake the grunts up because something has changed? It's easy when they are all in their dorms, not living at home.

Easy to hire people? Of course it is. Even at the low Foxconn wage, it's a good wage for a Chinese worker.

Do you think those Foxconn workers grab onto the job because they love it? The Foxconn suicides of 2010 (and even threats from earlier this year) belie that possibility.

Consider also what we know to be true: the CEO of Foxconn's parent company Hon Hai believes his employees are "animals," and --- we're sure --- treats them that way.

The fact that the Chinese government is a Communist one, and doesn't really care all that much about labor and environmental laws, and it's obvious. It's still all about the money, no matter what anyone tries to say.

Apple shows us why manufacturing will never return from China


  1. Anonymous said...

    Actually, bullet-point paragraph three spells out why it will return. It just won't be on the massive chinese scale.

    "when "peak oil" hits with full force, globalization will prove unsustainable and localization will be forced onto people"  

  2. Anonymous said...

    peak oil will never be allowed to 'hit'  


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