New Orleans Foxconn, the huge Chinese manufacturing operation that provides the sweat and often the blood and tears that go into making all of the fancy and expensive Apple products, announced huge wage increases of more than 25% (bringing workers up to $400 per month!) and reductions of overtime in plants where workers sometimes work 7-day, 14 hour days. The spinning business press wonders whether or not consumers will accept the small price changes and “blames” them for all of the widely reported Dickensian and deplorable conditions at Foxconn plants.
We are now supposed to believe, according to a professor quoted by the Times that “this is the way capitalism is supposed to work….”
Well, not sure about all of that, but the way 21st century capitalism really works, Apple has certainly never stinted on putting fat juicy prices on its consumer products and sweating out the rest of the sub-contracts. The new myth that the late Jobs and some of his fan-boys in the press are trying to promote is that Apple had to go to China because it was only there that the Foxconns’ of the world could scratch an Apple itch for a small change and mobilize 10,000 or more workers in the dead of night to work 24/7 to make it happen. Believe me, Apple consumers paid for that without thinking – or knowing! But, the real reason in 21st century capitalism was not the speed in China but the absurdly low wages, which is certainly a part of every century’s capitalism, and the benefits of state financed industrial infrastructure, which deserves pride of place here as well.
There cannot be any real doubt though the press releases from California and China will not say this, that the changes now being announced are the clear signs that Apple and others are finally realizing that the Fair Labor Association and other fig leafs covering their manufacturing mess are not working. There can’t be anyone that doesn’t believe that Apple and Foxconn are not talking about this hour-by-hour, and both realize that their “slave” ship is going down and the only way to deal with the heat is to finally make real and substantive changes since the fabrications and so-called investigations are fooling no one.
I knew it was over flying back from Atlanta last week when the stylist young, biomedical resident sitting next to me starting ranting about Apple and its practices. Out of nowhere! When you start to lose that demographic, the phone lines of 21st century capitalism start burning even as far as China.