What’s Wrong With Your iPhone?

Boycotts, boycotts, boycotts.  I’m not a boycott person. I’ve lived long enough and worked for enough corporations that I understand the level of inequity that permeates virtually all of them, to one degree or another. Still, in the last couple of years I’ve had to hear many in the LGBT Community recommend and stand by protests and boycotts of such corps as Walmart and Target. Talk to them about it? Pointless. Those who jump on boycotts often do it with a handful of facts at their disposal, with a willing ignorance of what may be wrong at the places they shop.

Virtually everyone I know who urges and participates in boycotts all own Apple products, often many of them. They also replace them year after year, even though the reasons to do so are getting smaller and smaller so as to be almost non-existent. Still, you just have to replace your iPhone every year or two, don’t you?

Try this…try to talk to someone who will boycott Walmart without taking a breath, about the practices in place that support their Apple addictions. There are lots of interesting facts…

Courtesy Business Insider…

Last week, NPR’s “This American Life” did a special on Apple’s manufacturing. The show featured (among others) the reporting of Mike Daisey, the man who does the one-man stage show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” and The NYT’s Nicholas Kristof, whose wife is from China.

You can read a transcript of the whole show here. Here are some details:

Foxconn, one of the companies that builds iPhones and iPads (and products for many other electronics companies), has a factory in Shenzhen that employs 430,000 people.

One Foxconn worker Mike Daisey interviewed, outside factory gates manned by guards with guns, was a 13-year old girl. She polished the glass of thousands of new iPhones a day.


The 13-year old said Foxconn doesn’t really check ages. There are on-site inspections, from time to time, but Foxconn always knows when they’re happening. And before the inspectors arrive, Foxconn just replaces the young-looking workers with older ones.

In the first two hours outside the factory gates, Daisey meets workers who say they are 14, 13, and 12 years old (along with plenty of older ones). Daisey estimates that about 5% of the workers he talked to were underage.

The workers stay in dormitories. In a 12-by-12 cement cube of a room, Daisey counts 15 beds, stacked like drawers up to the ceiling. Normal-sized Americans would not fit in them.

Unions are illegal in China. Anyone found trying to unionize is sent to prison.

Daisey interviews dozens of (former) workers who are secretly supporting a union. One group talked about using “hexane,” an iPhone screen cleaner. Hexane evaporates faster than other screen cleaners, which allows the production line to go faster. Hexane is also a neuro-toxin. The hands of the workers who tell him about it shake uncontrollably.

Some workers can no longer work because their hands have been destroyed by doing the same thing hundreds of thousands of times over many years (mega-carpal-tunnel). This could have been avoided if the workers had merely shifted jobs. Once the workers’ hands no longer work, obviously, they’re canned.

One former worker had asked her company to pay her overtime, and when her company refused, she went to the labor board. The labor board put her on a black list that was circulated to every company in the area. The workers on the black list are branded “troublemakers” and companies won’t hire them.

One man got his hand crushed in a metal press at Foxconn. Foxconn did not give him medical attention. When the man’s hand healed, it no longer worked. So they fired him. (Fortunately, the man was able to get a new job, at a wood-working plant. The hours are much better there, he says — only 70 hours a week).


In many factories in China, which is where most of our “stuff” comes from, large nets have had to be placed around high rise companies because of all the worker suicide jumps.

So a great number of the things we love in this country are produced in a country with these horrendous conditions. Still, most of us prefer to condemn a couple of mainstream department stores instead of looking at the big picture. Of course, you can still start a boycott of Target right now by texting your friends on your iPhone…


Leave a Comment