[A comment from Revolutionary Frontlines: “Capitalist Crisis and Empire Quandary leads to media hyperbole, political hypocrisy, empty promises and false claims of better days ahead”
Barack Obama, the political leader of US imperialism, is heading into a re-election campaign with growing discontent and opposition across the country, including among traditional supporters of the Democratic party. In his State of the Union address this week, he made a string of new and repeated promises to re-capture these drifting and angry voters, as he promised to bring jobs back from overseas and support domestic innovation and business. Apple electronics and Steve Jobs got special mention and praise from the President. Apple, making record profits from its popular iPhone and iPad products, produces most of its goods overseas–the largest part being made by Foxconn in China and India, in factories holding hundreds of thousands of workers being paid $1 an hour. If Foxconn increases pay rates and regulates safety and working conditions, China’s global edge in maintaining cheap labor pool will lose its allure. If the cost of production rises, Apple’s profit edge and competitiveness will suffer. Therefore, every Foxconn adjustment in pay and conditions is matched by increased demands on productivity. The NY Times article, below, details the situation at Foxconn.
The Chinese workers are caught in the middle of this. They are not the enemies of workers in the US–they suffer from the same exploitation for profits, at the hands of the same crisis-wracked and bankrupt capitalist system, as we, and people worldwide, are suffering from. There is no solution in workers fighting each other for a place in the exploiters’ production line. The path forward is made with solidarity, with finding the ways to support each other and to unify our struggles against the capitalist-imperialist system. With each day, millions more are seeing that the capitalist system, in its ever more vicious and desperate turns, is losing its credibility and legitimacy as a leading or organizing force in human affairs. — Frontlines ed.]
Click this link to see video: Made in China
January 25, 2012
In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad
By CHARLES DUHIGG and DAVID BARBOZA, New York Times
The explosion ripped through Building A5 on a Friday evening last May, an eruption of fire and noise that twisted metal pipes as if they were discarded straws.
When workers in the cafeteria ran outside, they saw black smoke pouring from shattered windows. It came from the area where employees polished thousands of iPad cases a day.
Two people were killed immediately, and over a dozen others hurt. As the injured were rushed into ambulances, one in particular stood out. His features had been smeared by the blast, scrubbed by heat and violence until a mat of red and black had replaced his mouth and nose.
“Are you Lai Xiaodong’s father?” a caller asked when the phone rang at Mr. Lai’s childhood home. Six months earlier, the 22-year-old had moved to Chengdu, in southwest China, to become one of the millions of human cogs powering the largest, fastest and most sophisticated manufacturing system on earth. That system has made it possible for Apple and hundreds of other companies to build devices almost as quickly as they can be dreamed up.
“He’s in trouble,” the caller told Mr. Lai’s father. “Get to the hospital as soon as possible.”
In the last decade, Apple has become one of the mightiest, richest and most successful companies in the world, in part by mastering global manufacturing. Apple and its high-technology peers — as well as dozens of other American industries — have achieved a pace of innovation nearly unmatched in modern history.
However, the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.
Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.
More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.
“If Apple was warned, and didn’t act, that’s reprehensible,” said Nicholas Ashford, a former chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, a group that advises the United States Labor Department. “But what’s morally repugnant in one country is accepted business practices in another, and companies take advantage of that.”
Apple is not the only electronics company doing business within a troubling supply system. Bleak working conditions have been documented at factories manufacturing products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M., Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Toshiba and others.
Current and former Apple executives, moreover, say the company has made significant strides in improving factories in recent years. Apple has a supplier code of conduct that details standards on labor issues, safety protections and other topics. The company has mounted a vigorous auditing campaign, and when abuses are discovered, Apple says, corrections are demanded.
But significant problems remain. More than half of the suppliers audited by Apple have violated at least one aspect of the code of conduct every year since 2007, according to Apple’s reports, and in some instances have violated the law. While many violations involve working conditions, rather than safety hazards, troubling patterns persist. Continue reading