The Devil You Know: Apple and Slave Labor

apple confederate

Take a group of people and force them to live on your property.  Pay them a hundred dollars a month to work 60 hours a week.  Take over half of that hundred in required rent and monopolized food and supplies to those people.  Give them buckets to wash their clothes.  Create an environment that is such a hell that people are killing themselves to get out.  Sound like slavery?  Sounds like Apple.

In 2009 an Apple plant named Foxconn was exposed globally after an employee suicide.  The employee had lost an IPhone 4 prototype, and was savagely beaten and interrogated by his employers before eventually killing himself.  In the build up to releasing the iPad, there were over a dozen other suicides.  The news of such horrible human abuses snowballed out from Foxconn after the first suicide and one would expect an immediate Apple crackdown on Foxconn.  Nope.  Nothing but a canned “we’re deeply saddened” response and a promise to look into things were delivered from Apple.  These conditions were exposed in 2006.  Apple has only just cut ties with this Foxconn last month – in 2013.  Apple found it necessary to “look into things” for six years.  That gave Apple six continued years of using a company that was reportedly engaging in everything mentioned above as well as being found to be engaging in child labor and allegedly even forcing students to aid in the production of the iPhone 5.  Apple even admitted to findings of child labor in 2011 – and continued business with Foxconn for an additional two years.

I saw a meme picture yesterday, it was an image of the confederate flag which was captioned, “IF YOU OWN ONE OF THESE…(flag image) YOU CAN’T QUESTION ANYONE’S AMERICANISM.”   But if you own an Apple product, you are waiving your own flag of slavery and cruelty.  The Apple logo has become not a symbol of “thinking different,” but one of subjugation, abuse, and white corporate power.  That shiny device in your pocket or purse was built on the backs of children and forced labor.  Yet few would hold up that Apple logo as a symbol of hate.

There is a problem in this country, and Apple’s logo couldn’t be a more perfect way to illustrate it.  Our corporations simply cannot help but bite into the temptation of cheap labor.  Apple isn’t alone, other companies accused of similar crimes are Hershey, The GAP, Philip Morris, Victoria’s Secret, Forever 21, Aeropostale, Toys ‘R’ Us, Urban Outfitters, and the list goes on.  These companies brandish big and happy “fair-trade” logos to symbolize that they only use distributors that adhere to a worker’s rights code, but in reality that logo often means nothing more than a marketing statement to the equivalent of “0% Transitive Fat” or “Made With Real Fruit!”  Stamp that product and forget.  Victoria’s Secret, now with 50% less child slavery!

The American Corporate model is one of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – a booming business that bets on you not paying attention.  Sure, once in a while a company is exposed, a  60 minutes is produced, and we collectively shake our fist at the skies for a minute or two.  The company apologies by giving an Apple-like canned response and a promise to do better – while we go right back to buying their products.  These companies are committing crimes that would earn them prison sentences in the United States, but if we can’t see it and if they aren’t American, we simply don’t care.  Makes things cheaper for us, right?

Apple’s products are those shiny little devices living in our homes to shuffle our music, handle our work, and our stream to our televisions all with a sleek design.  Being one of the most widely distributed products on the planet, you can’t throw a rock without hitting ten people carrying iPads, iPods, and PowerBooks.  The Apple symbol is meant to stand for cool and fun, with the same resulting atmosphere in their trendy and upscale stores across the nation.  Having an Apple makes you cool.  Having an Apple makes you sexy and hip.  Yet underneath that white and chrome exterior we willingly bite into a sour core, that to over 200,000 Chinese Foxconn employees that symbol is one of perverse injustice.  Apple is just one company.  Countless lives are being sacrificed daily around the globe on the altar of American materialism.

Steve Jobs should not be idolized.  He should be held up as an example of arrogant corporate power that stops at nothing to achieve product and profit at the cost of human life.  Companies do not get to shrug their shoulders and point fingers elsewhere when one of these scandals breaks.  It isn’t a mystery how they are able to get things produced so quickly and cheaply overseas.  They know what kind of people they are dealing with.  Even in a well-run factory without child labor, companies are still paying people of color pennies on the dollar for hard work.  It is racist and deplorable.  But it is cheap, and we all want big televisions, and that is how executives stay out of jail.  We cover our eyes just as much as they do, because we want our toys at a discount.

For six years profits soared at Apple.  Profits gained by abusive practices and harsh labor with pennies paid for effort.  Many feel that the confederate flag is a symbol of racism, slavery, and a hate that existed long ago (and sadly continues to).  No one can argue the fact that racism and hate must be stamped out wherever we find it, but that starts with us at home and with what we own.  The glaring truth is that slavery has not ended in America.  It has never been more profitable.  Apple is the modern temptation of our dystopian Eden.   Apple – Think Profit.

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