10 March 2010

Did child labor build your iPod?

Technology giant Apple recently admitted that some of its suppliers used child labor. Other labor violations were also discovered during supplier audits conducted in 2009.

The Associated Press reports:
Apple said it found 17 "core" violations, the most serious type.

Those included three cases of underage workers being hired; eight instances of workers paying "recruitment" fees that were above the legal limits in those countries; three cases in which suppliers used non-certified vendors to dispose of hazardous waste; and three others in which the companies gave false records during the audits.

In the cases involving underage workers, Apple said three facilities had hired a total of 11 workers who were 15 years old in countries where the minimum employment age is 16. Apple noted that the workers were no longer underage or weren't working for the facilities anymore when the audits were undertaken.


In 2006, Apple found that workers in a Chinese iPod factory were in many cases exceeding the company's limits for overtime. Apple ordered the factory to comply with its limits. Apple was responding to news reports at the time that workers at the factory were paid as little as $50 a month and were forced to work 15-hour shifts.
As liberal radio talk show host Thom Hartmann reported last week in his blog, "Apple [...] said it asked suppliers to end a practice 'where wage deductions were used for disciplinary purposes.'"

Fine, but Hartmann then proposed a better idea, quickly tempered with a reality check:
"How about instead Apple simply moves all its manufacturing to the United States of America and employs union labor? Or would that endanger their executive salaries? And, even worse, encourage hundreds of other high-tech manufacturers to do the same?"
Yes, it's all about profits vs. people. Why pay U.S. union workers a decent wage when you can pay people $50 a month in other parts of the world? It's this kind of attitude that deserves much of the blame for our 10% unemployment rate.

Ironically, if the U.S. unemployment rate remains high, soon no one except the very rich be able to afford any more iPods, iPhones, or MacBooks.

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