Apple product sales at an all-time high, labor practices at a dangerous low

The next time you’re slinging angry birds across the glass expanse of your iPhone screen, think about the dead laborers caught in the fray during manufacturing. Apple knows their products are made on the backs of underpaid, sometimes underage laborers working in unsafe conditions; their attempts at fixing these crimes against humanity are weak. Until they do more than sending report-writing auditors overseas, we have to stop buying Apple products.

The first world seems to be divided into two parts: the Apple users, and everybody else.

Even those who swear by Android might have an errant iPad lying around. Hell, I have an old iPod nano rotting in a drawer somewhere. Apple products have gained cultural importance in our modern web-crazed society, but the production of such convenient gadgets comes at a grave human price.

Recent events have unearthed unethical labor practices and safety hazards in Apple’s Chinese factories that have resulted in injury and death, and we’ve all got blood on our hands. No matter how nifty it’d be to have Apple’s latest and greatest gadget at the tips of your oh-so-tech-savvy fingers, its novelty pales in comparison to the anguish of underpaid, unprotected and, at times, underage laborers.

The Apple supplier code of conduct states their aim to be “to provide safe and healthy working conditions, to use fair hiring practices.” Yet according to The New York Times, Apple has reported that more than half of their suppliers have violated at least one aspect of the code of conduct every year since 2007. This included unpaid overtime, use of underage and even involuntary laborers, and facilities missing safety equipment.

The controversy peaked when two facilities experienced fatal explosions that killed four and injured 77.  Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer that makes Apple products, has been responsible for making workers clean iPads with the paralyzing and nerve-damaging chemical n-hexane injuring 137 in 2010. So while you whittle your thumbs on the iPhone’s touch-response surfaces, the fingers of the people who wipe that screen clean could be rendered forever immobile for the sake of your fleeting entertainment.

In response to various criticisms, Apple has simultaneously joined and hired the Fair Labor Association to independently audit Apple facilities. But the move is all for show. Since Apple now writes the FLA paychecks, its ability to fairly evaluate its new benefactor is questionable at best. Sure enough, the FLA president recently assured Apple’s facilities in China were “first-class” and “above average of the norm” during their most recent inspection beginning Feb. 13.

So much for independence.

Despite the news, Apple has remained a monstrously successful company. Apple products are still wildly popular, while Chinese workers toil for unfair wages and in hazardous environments. And while San Francisco is famous for its liberal views, the popularity of the products counteracts its ethically-conscious stance.

It’s like listing yourself as a Christian on your Facebook profile, while burning bibles and eating babies in the backyard. The San Francisco Bay Area alone houses 10 of the chain stores. If we city dwellers want to be consistent in our views, we should refrain from buying more Apple products until its labor practices are fairly evaluated by truly independent auditors, and refined.

Apple can afford to spend the big bucks to ensure fair labor. In its last 14-week quarter, the company pocketed $13.06 billion in net profits. An entity whose signature products have undergone more than 100 percent unit growth can stand to spend a little more to pay additional workers to regularly check its Chinese facilities have proper safety equipment, and to hire administrators to monitor the fair payment of workers.

Apple is not the only tech giant using unethical practices. Even in separate industries like the food industry or the textile industry, the human injustices are insurmountable. Even other tech companies like Dell and HP are Foxconn clients.

So while buying other brand name products might not be as effective as steering clear of the technology sector altogether, doing so might send a message to the iPhone giant that their leadership can change the world. As the leader of the tech world and one of the most successful tech ventures in the world today, Apple has the financial advantage and cultural clout to become an effective global leader in ethical manufacturing.

So when Apple launches their new mystery product Wednesday, do not be one of those soulless drones drooling in front of your web browsers, oogling the next little widget they’ve cooked up. Remember your brethren overseas, breathing poisonous fumes, fearing disaster and risking their well-being and their lives for your knick knack. Send Apple a message by not taking a bite.

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