Underage employee at iPhone sweatshop fired for 10-second pause honoring Steve Jobs

by on October 6, 2011 · 6 comments

in Are You Kidding?, Culture, Economy, Labor, Media, Satire

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.

Steve Jobs with ipod

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

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.”

iSweat Apple iPod sweatshopIndeed, 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.”

China sweatshop conditions

This covert photo of sweatshop conditions in China was taken with my iPhone's Hipstamatic™ filter!

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.

John Lennon ad Apple

"Imagine all the profits..."

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

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

mike turco October 6, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Hey huffman john lennon died in 1980. I wonder what his reaction would be to all these people, heads bowed looking at their iPhones. “all you need is love”


annagrace October 6, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Shane- You had me going, and then you really had me going…. Well done!


dave rice October 6, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Damn you Shane! I should have been tipped off by “Jo told the OB Rag…”

Instead I keep reading through until Anna’s comment, even raising an eyebrow at the Lennon thing but attributing it to the fact that I genuinely believe people are stupid enough to say shit like you fake-quoted. Well done with the parody again!


Allen Lewis October 7, 2011 at 10:07 am

Yea, I also was sucked in, but that doesn’t change the fact that most if not all the cool products we love is made over seas, and apply business practices that are unsavory and that have helped ditch our american way of life. People say it’s because the cost of labor is to high here, well to that I say if CEO’s wasn’t so greedy and didn’t make 300 times what a blue collier makes we wouldn’t be in the worst crisis sense the great depression.


butch October 7, 2011 at 10:42 am

::looks at smudges on phone touchscreen::

Where can I get some of this N-Hexane? Just can’t keep this thing clean…


Ed October 8, 2011 at 9:45 am

Two thoughts.

Bravo to this fellow who had the nads to step out of line even for his ten seconds of fame. If the system doesn’t want him, that’s probably better for him, and ultimately the world. He will end up being seen to move more mountains that way, as news ripples outward.

I too have benefited from Uncle Steve’s creativity for a decade now (which I realize is short in Apple die-hard years) and use my machine for a great many creative tasks, and have given myself a rather liberal education over the years. One writer I encountered was dubbed the Unabomber at one time: Ted Kaczynski. You don’t have to like his method for political bombings but his long rant “Industrial Society and Its Future” is clear that all technology has a dark side. Even the “beneficial” stuff that saves lives, fosters creativity, and all that comes with the dark side, usually of its disposal. Dunno if it’s original, but I took to using the word “techgnosis” to describe that, and possibly coined the word “techgnophobia” to describe a rather common aversion to what is going on behind the techno-curtain. See http://tapkae.com/blog/2006/11/30/techgnophobia.html

I ran my last Apple till it broke down, then after much hand-wringing I bought my newer iMac and will do the same to use it till it breaks. I try to fight the urge to get on bended knee before the newest Uncle Steve creation. It takes a bit of fortitude to resist, to skip a few generations of products. It isn’t quite the nads that our friend in China had to momentarily jam the machine though. I don’t kid myself of that. But to the extent that my machine is powered on, I try to do something to make the world a better place.


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