Apple, Times, and Others Advocating for Sweatshops

Ideas and Issues International

New Orleans   As improbable as it may sound; sweatshops seem to have a lot of high placed advocates who simply swear by them.  Yes, sweatshops!

In the recent deification of Apple and its co-founder Steven Jobs, there has been unstinting praise for Apple and its high priced, sleek products as a great American success story.  The credible allegations and proofs of how much of Apple’s manufacturing operation rested on the backs of sweatshop labor, particularly at huge manufacturers like FoxConn, were sometimes mentioned in passing, but largely swept under the rug.  Not surprisingly a front page article on the death and demise of American manufacturing featuring both Jobs and Apple prominently also tried to bury the sweatshop reality on which so much of this manufacturing “miracle” exists in a few paragraphs of the very long story.

The reporter and others marveled at how on a whim 8000 workers could be pulled out of bed in company owned and run dormitories and put to work on a last minute changeover.  Wow, the article and others seemed to say, that couldn’t happen here in America.

Well, that’s wrong.  It could happened here in America, but Apple would have to pay for it, and that’s still the real difference.

One fool asked where you could find some thousands of workers in the United States, who would be ready to roll to work.  Hey, just about anywhere, jerkwater!  Has word of the recession gotten to none of these folks?

Even in the pages of the New York Times, if they were interested they can read about the skilled workers by the thousands that have trucked themselves into North Dakota (of all places!) to live in, yes, bunks, trailers, and all manner of man-caves in order to work in the oil industry on the plains.  But, whoops, once again, I should add that they are doing so, because they get paid, and paid pretty damned well to do so!  We saw thousands of workers flood into New Orleans to help on the recovery, but once again they did so on their own dime, because they thought they could make a dollar.  In all of these cases these are workers with crazy, mad skills, too.

The article seemed to say Apple employed 700,000 workers in manufacturing around the world, oh, and 40,000 or so in the USA.  Their spokesperson wanted to make sure all of us knew that the American economy is not “their problem.”  Their problem is only “making a good product.”  Life and business is not that simple, and the responsibilities go much deeper.

This seems to be a problem throughout much of the Times.  Nicholas Kristof did a column that I had to read because it was about Olly Neal from Arkansas, who I had worked with in the 1970’s when he was running the Lee County Clinic.  Posting the article, more than one of my buddies reminded me how they too had to hold their noses to read anything Kristof wrote because he is such a relentless apologist for sweatshops.

Good news that we are really talking about manufacturing.  Bad news that the ideology underpinning the conversation is that there can only be manufacturing at the expense of workers’ rights and wages in sweatshop conditions.

Shame on Apple, the Times, and the rest of the tribe that makes these rationalizations!