As of late, I have been listening and reading all the press surrounding Apple and their main supplier Foxxconn and also been getting an earful from a friend that despises Apple with every ounce of his being.
Apparently Foxxconn (and many other Chinese suppliers) don’t treat their workers well or pay them a decent living wage, and working conditions are bad and what do you know their safety record is rather lackluster and if you are even paying even a little attention, you know that China gives not one shit for their environment.
So here’s the rub, today CNN had an opinion piece (http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/17/opinion/nova-apple-foxconn/index.html) entitled “When will workers share in Apple’s wealth?”. Hey I can answer that!!! Pick me pick me!!!! Yes Mr. Cleland? The answer is this, who gives a shit, that’s my answer. China has managed to lure just about every manufacturing job in the world to their fair country. How did they manage that monumental task you ask? Well there are a multitude of reasons. The biggest one is that they have little to no environmental protection laws. They care not for their environment and have no problem with destroying it for profit. This is actually the number one reason for companies moving production of whatever they want to build to China. Love the pristine beauty of America? Yeah, that is because we have strict laws preventing companies from polluting. Not polluting costs a lot of money. You have to pay big money to have all your hazardous waste disposed of properly. Its much cheaper to just pump your crap into the air or dump it in your rivers like China does. Have you seen the air quality index for Beijing lately? Its literally off the charts. Its gotten so bad that the current measuring system for measuring the crap in the air doesn’t even go to the level that the air is now. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/07/world/asia/beijing-journal-anger-grows-over-air-pollution-in-china.html
Another reason jobs have moved to China is wages. Of course as with most things, there is more to it than that. China is a communist country and they frown on workers unions, matter of fact, they throw you in prison for even mentioning creating one. So like any business (or political system) where people have no rights, they tend to abuse the workers. Manufacturing wages in China are pretty low by U.S. standards. Workers generally have no rights, almost no benefits and have no way to rectify any of it. In Shenzhen, the arrival of the factories meant wages for the average worker went from $50 a month working in a rice paddy to making $250 a month. To the people in that area, the factories have been an absolute boom to the economy. By everyone’s measure, the “grimness” of the factories is much less than the grimness of working long hours in a rice paddy.
Now, my press (and friends) would like me to get on the poor Chinese bandwagon and complain to Apple, and guess what, I’m not. I am not going to feel one bit sorry for a country that has lured away all our manufacturing jobs by paying their people nothing and destroying their country. The Chinese generally don’t play fair in the global manufacturing market. If the Chinese want better pay and clean air, guess what, they can do what Americans did, fight for it. What I will do, is write to Apple and tell them to bring their manufacturing to the U.S. and that I am willing to pay for it.
The grand irony will be someday the Chinese worker will get these things (its already heading in that direction), and much to their surprise, when they do, the jobs will be gone. Right now its cheaper to do business in China, but the hassles are great. Logistics to have products made such a long way away are monumental. The only way its worth it, is that its still cheaper today to do business there. As workers in China are successful in getting a living wage and benefits like Americans have fought for, then it will no longer be cheaper to do business there and the jobs will come back. Until then I won’t give one crap about the Chinese getting a fair wage. You want to know what I care about? I want to be able to purchase something made in my country, by my people.
I have an aunt and uncle that run a hunting gear business. http://www.garynesse.com/ They make hunting/outdoor wear and they make it in the U.S. I asked Gary what the difference was between having one of their high end coats made in the U.S. vs having it made in China. I don’t remember the exact figures but it wasn’t as different as I would have expected. It comes down to how much profit a company wants to make on a given product. Here is where Apple and others could be leading the charge. They could be making factories here in the U.S. and be bringing jobs back here. Here is the one issue with that though. You are going to pay more for everything. iPads won’t be $600, they will be $1000 but the nice thing is that it gave an American a job. Its a catch 22 for sure and I can see how people are upset at American companies making gross profits buy moving their manufacturing to China, but feel sorry for China, I won’t.
Americans are going to have to decide to stop buying Chinese products before this ends. As my GF can attest, I have started asking where everything I buy is made. Everyone should do this. I am not saying I don’t buy it because most times, I still have to as I have little option to find it made anywhere else, but at least I am sending a message to stores, that I am paying attention. I even have sent emails to companies asking them to please bring the manufacturing back to the U.S. The good news is that it is happening. Its a slow trend but it looks like some companies are bringing work back to the U.S. This is good news for sure, but it would be a faster trend if people started making noise. When you shop, tell the people at the store that you would rather buy things made in America.
The only thing I feel guilty about, is going to Walmart from time to time. I won’t feel one bit of sympathy for the Chinese worker that has a job that used to be here in the U.S. Like I said, the American worker was once where he was, and we had to fight for better pay and benefits. If the Chinese don’t like their system, they can rise up and create change in their own country (which it appears they are doing), god knows we have enough problems for me to worry about right here in the good old U.S of A. Should Apple demand that Foxxconn pay their workers a higher wage? No, Apple should figure out a way to bring the jobs back to America. I want don’t want an iPad made by a Chinese worker making a fair wage, I want an iPad made in the U.S. The Chinese are on their own, when it comes to their working conditions.