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Steve Jobs – what a guy! An inventive genius, visionary, and icon of American enterprise. Jobs was all of that… and less.
Less, because he knew that a serious flaw was being built into every one of his iGadgets – a flaw that he wouldn’t fix and kept trying to cover up: Apple’s exploitation of workers who manufacture the electronic wonders that made Jobs a billionaire.
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Once proud that its products were “made in the USA,” Apple today is the Wal-Mart of high tech, profiting by taking advantage of powerless foreign labor. Practically all of the 70 million iPhones and 30 million iPads sold last year were produced in foreign-owned factories, mostly in China, that are an integral part of Apple’s global supply chain.
Apple insists that it has a strict code of conduct to assure that those workers are fairly treated. As Jobs himself gushed about one Chinese factory “My gosh, I mean, they’ve got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools… it’s a pretty nice factory.”
But gosh – independent investigators report that workers are hardly enjoying leisurely swims. Instead, 72-hours workweeks, forced overtime, debilitating stress injuries, child labor, overcrowded barracks, chemical poisonings, falsified records, humiliating punishments, and deadly explosions are the realities of that “pretty nice factory.”
Apple’s own audits found that more than half of its suppliers have been violating its code of conduct every year since 2007. But Jobs, a problem-solving genius with enormous power over his suppliers, simply let it go. As a former Apple executive noted: “If half of iPhones were malfunctioning, do you think Apple would let it go on for four years?”
There is genius in your iPhone, but Jobs also slipped thousands of human cogs into it. Apparently he had no app for corporate morality.
“In China, the Human Costs That Are Built Into an iPad,” The New York Times, January 26, 2012.