Xiang Jo, a 14-year-old laborer on an iPhone assembly line in Suzhou, China, just wanted to pay homage to someone whose vision transformed the world.
Jo had no idea the homage would cost him his job.
The trouble started Thursday morning, when word of Steve Jobs’ death spread through the factory where Jo and dozens of other young Chinese use the toxic chemical N-Hexane to clean iPhone touch screens.
Jo, who had read about Jobs’ achievements on a heavily censored Chinese news website, decided to pause from his work and observe a 10-second moment of silence out of respect. A supervisor saw Jo sitting motionlessly and immediately fired him.
“I just wanted to take a moment to salute the entrepreneurial mastermind who forever changed consumer computing,” Jo told The OB Rag. “The boss said the security team would beat me if I ever tried to come back.”
Indeed, in the wake of Jobs’ death, much has been made of how the mercurial CEO resurrected Apple’s fortunes and developed a range of luxury products adored by wealthy people around the world. Missing from much of the reminiscing, however, is an appreciation of how Jobs expertly tapped slave labor in countries like China to help his company accomplish its goals.
In fact, critics have accused Apple of unsavory business practices for years, and the company has responded by saying it does its best to enforce proper standards. But as recently as last year, Apple’s own annual report indicated that many of its supplier factories were breaking its rules.
“Only 65% of the factories were paying their staff the correct wages and benefits, and Apple found 24 factories where workers had not even been paid China’s minimum wage of around 800 yuan (76 pounds) a month,” the UK’s Telegraph reported in an analysis of Apple’s report.
“Meanwhile, only 61% of Apple’s suppliers were following regulations to prevent injuries in the workplace and a mere 57% had the correct environmental permits to operate.”
Xiang Jo, the teenager recently fired from the iPhone factory, said he finds Apple’s supplier data inspiring.
“If 65% of Apple’s factories aren’t ripping off employees, I just need to figure out which factories those are,” Jo said. “And if I could afford an iPhone, it would probably have an app for that.”
Jennifer Rich, an activist in downtown San Diego to support the Occupy Wall Street movement, said she had mixed feelings about Apple.
“The company’s appalling labor record must be balanced with the fact that its products are super kick-ass,” Rich said. “I mean just before I came down here to the rally, I quickly and conveniently loaded my iPod with Joan Baez folk tunes and some ‘All Things Considered’ podcasts to help me keep fighting the power.”
Nearby, Mark Huffman, another downtown San Diego occupier, used his iPhone to take pictures of himself and his friends as they protested corporate largess.
“Is it fair to single out Apple?” Huffman asked. “It’s not like it’s the biggest company in China or anything.”
Actually, when measured by the total worth of its stock, Apple is the world’s most valuable corporation. And the company earned $23 billion in profit during the year ended June 25.
Nonetheless, while Wal-Mart, Nike, and other firms that do billions of dollars of business with China have joined an alliance to limit corporate pollution in the country, Apple has refused to participate.
Similarly, a report from Beijing’s not-for-profit Institute of Environmental and Public Affairs ranked Apple last out of 29 global tech companies in responsiveness and transparency.
Still, iPhone enthusiast Huffman said he wasn’t bothered by Apple’s policies.
“Hey, if Apple really treats workers so poorly,” Huffman asked, “do you really think a guy like John Lennon would agree to be a ‘Think Different’ spokesman?”
–sent from my iConscience