A recent New York Times article puts the issues of labor rights, innovation and the future of the American economy on the table. Like many other American-based tech companies, Apple employs foreign workers to manufacture its products. As a matter of fact, “almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas,” according to the article. Apple employs 43,000 workers in the United States; however, there are many more Apple contractors worldwide, including 700,000 people who actually engineer and assemble iPods, iPads, iPhones and other “iThings.”
Apple and other tech companies claim to send business overseas because America is not producing enough people who are capable of doing the jobs at the speed and efficiency needed to compete in the global market today. However, human rights advocates claim that these companies are looking for the cheapest way to create products while making more money for themselves at the expense of foreign workers. With more NAFTA-like free trade agreements, such as the South Korea FTA, getting passed by the US Congress, even more jobs will only be shipped overseas.
…One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.
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.”…
Apple works with Foxconn Technology, a firm that ” assembles an estimated 40 percent of the world’s consumer electronics for customers like Amazon, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Nintendo, Nokia, Samsung and Sony.” Apple assembles its products in the Chinese
assembly plant “Foxconn City.”
“[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?”
Here are our questions:
1. Should American-based tech firms be obligated to provide more good jobs (meaning decent wages, benefits etc) to American-based workers, especially during a down economy?
2. Or should the pursuit of the “American dream” and the virtues of capitalism go where an American business can make money anywhere in the world?
3. Why isn’t America taking innovation and creating a job force competitive enough for the impending global market more seriously?
4. If jobs do go overseas, what is the company’s obligation to provide good jobs for its foreign employees?
5. Should Americans protest companies not supporting the American economy and/or their unethical employment practices overseas?
We think the last question would be hard for most Americans. How likely will they dump their iThings to protest Apple? But then again, maybe a little protest could at least inspire a larger conversation.