So, my heart is broken. My Generation’s counter-culture icon, Apple, has sold out. Turns out, they are not keeping it real. And I dove in, with a lot of other people, drawn in by the fun technology and the “I can’t believe it” low price.
I am talking specifically about my beloved iPhone. It has long been known that cell phones and handhelds were on the remedial end of product responsibility. High resource use devices containing a lot of toxic materials that have a useful lifetime of two years, if you’re lucky. And takeback programs are rare. If the thing is actually working when you’re done with it, various human services groups repurpose them to vulnerable populations for the 911 access, and these days there are some electronics recycling programs that will take them, but that’s about it. And updating the technology while keeping most of the device? Se above about “lucky if it lasts two years.”
So, why the sudden disappointment? Well, in addition to the various “brown point” (as opposed to “green point”) characteristics of iPhones, apparently, they have the social responsibility of blood diamonds. Ugh. They are manufactured in China to keep the costs down, including costs of product redesign, such as
“New screens began arriving at the [Chinese] plant near midnight. A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames.”
Um, that would be about a million labor law violations all at once.
What is interesting is, that while this excerpt does come from the New York Times (which recently published articles exposing some of the less than savory practices in Chinese factories owned by American interests) it actually appears in an editorial to the NYT entitled, “Average is Over”. Which is about why American workers aren’t “competitive” any more.
I’m not really 100 percent sure if AiO is hyperbole or one hand not watching the other. I’m going to have to say that I’ve got to go with the latter. And that just makes me sad a second time over. That anyone would think that the above story is one of striving for workplace excellence—and an example of what American workers should aspire to?—is some kind of Sadist.
The history of American labor is one of closing doors after the horse escapes. We tend to learn lessons when people wind up dead (and that’s not just a workplace issue). I’d like to see American manufacturing come back as much as anyone else in the Rust Belt, but not that way, it’s not worth it. There’s been enough of unwinding hard fought progress in the workplace (see Gov. Walker, see erosion of ADA).
So, not sure what I’m going to do. At least, I should have a while before I “need” a new phone or computer. But I really feel recommitted to Buy American. My consumer “needs” do not warrant the above and I’d rather spend my money on something ethical. No one needs to wind up dead so I can have a cool phone.