Here’s a factory scene from China, as described by Charles Duhigg and David Barboza of the 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.
Snazzy products, high profits, and workers at risk
Unfortunately, dangerous working conditions for workers who assemble Apple products are more common than any of us who buy, own, and love these computers and gadgets would like to think. As Duhigg and Barboza add in their report:
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.
I own and use a MacBook laptop and an iPad regularly. I think they are excellent products. I own a small amount of Apple stock in my retirement portfolio. I’ve made some money off of it.
Folks like me (and perhaps some of you, dear readers) need to make our concerns known. I’m a latecomer to the Apple world, but I’ve always envied the “hip and cool” image of the company and its followers. Now, however, it’s terribly clear: There’s nothing hip or cool about exposing workers to life threatening and health impairing conditions on the job.