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Ask Slashdot: Any Smart Phones Made Under Worker-Friendly Conditions? 371

Posted by timothy
from the ethics-vs-aesthetics dept.
New submitter unimacs writes "So Apple has been under fire recently for the conditions at the factories of their Chinese suppliers. I listened to 'This American Life's' recent retraction of the Michael Daisey piece they did a while back. Great radio for those of you who haven't heard it — rarely has dead air been used to such effect. Anyway, while his work has been discredited, Michael Daisey wasn't inaccurate in his claims that working conditions are poor in iPhone and iPad factories. Given that, are there any smart phone manufacturers whose phones are made under better conditions?"
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Ask Slashdot: Any Smart Phones Made Under Worker-Friendly Conditions?

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  • Short answer... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MonkeyBot (545313) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @08:53AM (#39412689)
    No.
      • Re:Short answer... (Score:5, Informative)

        by MrHanky (141717) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:55AM (#39413397) Homepage Journal

        Yes, and since a bunch of the other phone brands are made in the same Foxcon factories, that piece of propaganda is evidently just that: propaganda. But keep spreading it around. Some people may be stupid enough to believe it.

        • by Tharsman (1364603)

          The reason Apple labor is “best than the rest" is that Apple, thanks to these controversies (so some good came out of it anyways,) has made sure their assembly staff gets treated better. Foxcon has no reason to treat the assemblers for any other client any better, and they don't.

          • Re:Short answer... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by uigrad_2000 (398500) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:33AM (#39413865) Homepage Journal

            China's labor force is busy making products that we buy here. If you force Foxconn to shut down because you feel it is a "sweatshop", then those employees have to find a job at a different sweat shop. As more and more shut down, the choices of where to go become more limited, and they abuse the workers even more.

            Believe it or not, the way to fix the problem is to create more sweat shops in China. As workers there have more choices, they will find the ones that have the best pay and treat their employees the best. The final result is that the sweat shops will cease to be sweat shops, and China will be a strong economic leader with a strongly developed workforce.

            I realize a lot of people have this seething hate for employers, and are looking for a place to focus it. But, those who provide jobs are not the enemy. The jobs may seem terrible to you, but when you have a workforce this large, where everyone is just trying to get a piece of the pie, any additional job there is a good thing. The jobs will not get better until there are as many jobs available as there are people to fill them.

            • by skids (119237)

              Believe it or not, the way to fix the problem is to create more sweat shops in China.

              Well, that's a horrible way to sell your point, which has merit.

              There is a need for both a better job market in these nations, and for pressure from the end consumer. So the upshot is that if you are a purist and decide to live without the products until they meet your demands, even though you want/need them, progress may actually be slower (because there is less growth in the producing economy to drive the job market) than if you buy products made under poor conditions, but do so from a vendor that is on

              • by geekoid (135745)

                Right now, it's an employees market in China. People are making more money, moving between companies when the pay is better at another company.

                So it is spiraling up.

            • by silanea (1241518)

              [...] The jobs will not get better until there are as many jobs available as there are people to fill them.

              Oh really? That must be why here in Germany all of our 'social' fields - from the police to emergency services to fire departments to kindergartens to schools to hospitals to nursing homes to... - are going through the worst all around shortage of employees of all levels of qualification since WWII, and of the people who do work there a substantial and steadily growing number needs to work a second job on the side just to keep themselves afloat. Yeah, your model works incredibly well...for the employers.

            • by jdogalt (961241)

              "Believe it or not, the way to fix the problem is to create more sweat shops in China."

              You have been infected with an evil meme. You propose fixing something evil, by expanding it. There is another answer- Buy less shit you don't need. And when your gut reaction is that you really need that new smartphone. Think again. If you still think you need it, THINK AGAIN. But that is only part of the solution. The other part, is to use any and every means necessary to secure all the citizen's of the world, t

            • China's labor force is busy making products that we buy here. If you force Foxconn to shut down because you feel it is a "sweatshop"

              I don't want Foxconn to shut down. What I want is for them to keep manufacturing iPhones for me to buy, but pay their workers accordingly. This might mean a smaller margin for Apple, or higher prices, or likely both, but if that's what it takes, so be it.

              Believe it or not, the way to fix the problem is to create more sweat shops in China. As workers there have more choices, they will find the ones that have the best pay and treat their employees the best. The final result is that the sweat shops will cease to be sweat shops, and China will be a strong economic leader with a strongly developed workforce.

              That's not how it worked out in U.S., though. The way it did, all factories treated workers more or less the same, until they started unionizing and using strikes to back their demands with something factory owners had to contend with.

              But China is a prime e

          • by cpu6502 (1960974)

            Many of the people who committed suicides were working on Apple assembly lines. They are supposed to get breaks every 2 hours, and a workweek no longer than 60 hours.

            But the managers have the power to deny those breaks plus require overtime, and despite Apple's best efforts the rules continue to be broken (and exhausted, sick people jump off roofs to escape).

    • Re:Short answer... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cbope (130292) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:00AM (#39412779)

      Not exactly true. Business-class Nokia smartphones (E-series) were made in Finland until very recently. Unfortunately, when Nokia signed a pact to switch to Windows Phone, production moved East for the new Lumia models. You can still pick up Nokias that were manufactured here, until current supply chain inventories run out. The E7 I got a couple weeks ago was Made in Finland and my previous E72 was also made here.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not only are the physical devices made under worker-unfriendly conditions, the software for the devices is typically built by those under nearly identical poor working conditions. The storefronts, OLTP backends, charging gateways, etc, etc, etc. The entire industry is controlled by those who wish to milk every possible cent out of their customer bases, and the backends are usually a poorly written hodgepodge of technologies with few experienced workers providing oversight. It's amazing anything works at

    • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:18AM (#39412961)

      My smartphone is made from low-fat granola pieces glued together from wheat reaped by freedom-loving highly-paid yet-still-spiritualistic gay Tibetan monks who are all married to one another and turn all their after-tax profits over to Greenpeace.

      Of course it doesn't work, but I feel really good about owning it and it's a great conversation-starter with the cute angry Goth chicks who hang out in my local hipster food co-op in Brooklyn.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Yes this type of reaction is inevitable. We have the whole TV series Portlandia which is that same joke. We feel funny about trying to use our influence as consumers for moral ends, and doubt it will make any difference. Yes it can get absurd, the focus on Apple isn't fair, yadda yadda...

        .

        Nevertheless, results speak loudly [nytimes.com]:

        BEIJING - The announcement Saturday that Foxconn Technology - one of the worldâ(TM)s largest electronics manufacturers - will sharply raise salaries and reduce overtime at its C

  • by orlanz (882574) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @08:55AM (#39412711)

    No, .... well yes. It all depends on how deep you want to follow the supply chain and how much you want to remain ignorant of. And enough of that second part will also lead to a NO.

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @08:57AM (#39412737) Homepage Journal

    I don't mean to be obtuse, but worker friendly means something entirely different in the US versus China. I would go as far as saying there are a enough differences between Europe and the US that settling on the terms is difficult.

    Pay? Hours? Benefits? Shift?

    Can we throw in the type of job and modify those parameters?

    To be frank the forty hour work week is an aberration. It certainly sounds great, I haven't had one in a dozen years. For some jobs it might make sense. Yet does it have to be across five days a week or can it be done in four or seven?

    • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:26AM (#39413057)

      I have to agree with this post - my experience isn't quite China, but I think it does carry over.

      At the end of January, start of February this year, I spent nearly three weeks in Uganda - and this wasn't all nice hotels and B&Bs in cushy areas of towns and cities, this was staying with some native Ugandan friends in their normal settings.

      On a social level, these friends were our (myself and my wife) equals - in Ugandan social levels they earned the equivalent of what we did, they held a roughly equal level of job and such. And their "standard" of living, be it *very* good for their setting, is basically the equivalent of one step up from complete poverty in the UK.

      Their kitchen was a basic stone (cast concrete) sink, and a single electrical hotplate on the floor. And thats a step up from what the neighbours used - the outdoor cooking facilities (basically, a fire pit), but only because my friends saved up and bought this for themselves.

      Their bathroom was indoors, but extremely basic. Because they paid a lot more in rent. Others on the same site had to make do with outdoor facilities.

      So we got settled into this - and then we visited our hosts father in his village. Thats a huge huge step down from the comparative luxury our hosts lived in.

      Our hosts father is a vicar in a traditional Ugandan hilltop village, thirty miles from running water, a hundred miles from electricity, and a hundred and fifty miles from an actual paved road. Still lives in a mud hut, the roof covered with well used corrogated tin sheets and (funnily enough, Sainsburies) plastic grocery bags. He eats meat once a month, but still managed to serve his "honoured guests" two types of meat - that would have cost him two months wages, all gone in a single meal for us. His wash facilities is an old plastic jerry can, his toilet a long drop hole in the floor. He and his wife have to travel 9 miles each day to get fresh water, and then gather the wood to make the fire.

      This man sold off 90% of his ancestral lands in order to put his first child through nursing school - and that child had to pay for the next two. He actually really struggled to sell the land as well, because it was seen as "the wrong thing to do" by his fellow villagers.

      And the final place we stayed was with a Bishop of the Church of Uganda. No better really than our hosts - nothing to shout about at all.

      And believe me, these people were seriously well off in the scheme of things. Meeting children who are never going to have a prospect of going to school, who are wearing sack cloth for clothes (I saw that dozens of times just in one 3 hour road trip, and then more turned up at the vicars house), or wearing "GAP" sweaters that have obviously been through at least two generations already. A 4 year old carrying a 2 pint plastic milk carton of water behind his older sibling, on a road where we hadn't seen a house for two miles before, and didn't see one for another two miles.

      I never really thought poverty actually existed, or at least thats what I now think I thought - it just doesn't sink in until you see these things in the real world for yourself.

      One of the huge things that struck me was the fact that you could never trust meat sold anywhere - if you wanted to make sure the meat you are eating hasn't been sitting on the butchers stall for a week then you have to kill the animal yourself, and store the parts you aren't going to eat immediately. The chicken and goat we ate at the vicars was killed shortly after we arrived, basically right in front of us.

      You can't really judge the sort of step up that people in these situations get from jobs like Foxconn, its literally stepping from one world into another. You can shout all you can about how the standards don't match up with western ones, but when seeing the sort of standards these people are coming from you can see why there are thousands lining up whenever there is a mere hint of a job available. It really is the difference to them between "su

      • This is one of those comments where you wish there was a special "+6" option.
      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        You sound like a really talented and insightful individual that has obviously been there in person.

        Consider how you can apply your skills to make the lives of the people living there better in person. If not, learn some new skills. Honestly a decent latrine or water sanitation or windmill or shit that some of us can build in high school can help out the less fortunate. If you have an opportunity to go back, try to leave something behind that will have an impact on future generations there.

        • The entire reason for my visit was to pick a spot to set up a hospital run by myself, my wife and about a dozen others.

          The plan is to open it in 2015 or 2016.

      • by Zibodiz (2160038)
        This comment should be an article published somewhere (I dunno, National Geographic or something). Very well written and very informative.
      • ...Remember that besides healthcare, and adequate food, anything else is a luxury and we could quite easily do without

        There are uncontacted tribes in the Amazon that are not poor, they have no idea of money, and have no debt, and so no poverty, but also have very little in the way of material goods ...

        The only thing we could give them to make their lives better would be medicine, they already have everything else they need

  • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @08:57AM (#39412743)

    Nokia fired 4000 smart phone assemblers in Finland, Hungary and Mexico last month, moving to Asia. Theres a press release from around feb 8th.

    This /. article is probably a response, however indirect, to that.

  • by kervin (64171) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @08:58AM (#39412747) Homepage

    Part of the issue is that consumers may want to do the right thing but have no information as to which is the least of all evils. A device/company/plant database that can be checked before buying an electronic device would help solve that particular issue.

    The idea is not to tell the consumer which way to go. But instead to simply present all the facts and opinions.

    Personally, I would spend a $50 premium over other phones if I knew I were rewarding fair manufacturing practices.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      Part of the issue is that consumers may want to do the right thing but have no information as to which is the least of all evils. A device/company/plant database that can be checked before buying an electronic device would help solve that particular issue.

      Another part of the issue is how you define "least of all evils". Is it less evil to build a factory in rural USA and hire factory workers that otherwise may have worked some other first-world job (working in a Mcdonalds, sweeping floors, general laborer, etc), or is it less evil to build a factory in China where the other option is either working at a less ethical factory under worse conditions or trying to eek out a living at subsidence farming.

  • by g0bshiTe (596213) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @08:58AM (#39412757)
    What I would like to know is why all the outrage over Apple? Most Chinese factories have poor working conditions, so this would cover what, 95% of consumer goods.
    • by djsmiley (752149)

      Inflated prices would be my guess, along with a well known product.

      Oh and difficulty in following the supply chain of other manufacturers. Apple are an easy target as they have everything "in house".

      • And also because Apple previously made changes to the manufacture of various product lines as a result of pressure from environmental groups. The public interest groups have already had at least one well-publicized success, makes sense to concentrate your efforts where you're most likely to get results. It's not a bad thing for Apple either, as being masters of marketing, they can and do turn these concessions into value added to the product. Converting "Apple caves in to pressure to improve working conditi

    • Until the last couple of years a lot more phones were being made in other places with better working conditions, but somebody started a new race to the bottom...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      What I would like to know is why all the outrage over Apple?

      Because the mainstream press is extremely lazy due to the desire to not pay for real investigative reporting. Apple has disclosed its supply chain in bits and pieces in the past and is the only smartphone supplier to commit to opening up their supply chain for inspection by third parties. Combine this with the instant recognition that the Apple brand has and the "fans"/"haters" that come with it, you'll have an article that generates a very large a

    • Re:Why just Apple? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by thoth (7907) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @10:28AM (#39413791) Journal

      It's trendy to pile on the leader, or perceived leader.

      I read an interesting article a few years ago, I think from the Economist, that stated it was often better to be #2 in a segment. #1 takes all the hits, even if #2 does basically the same thing. Examples sited were Walmart vs Target, Home Depot vs Lowes, and a few others. Here is happens to be Apple vs whoever else makes electronic gadgets. Apparently Apple's use of Chinese factories is the worst thing ever, while Google/Microsoft/Dell/Acer/Asus/etc on and on is totally fine, since they aren't Apple.

  • by syntap (242090) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @08:59AM (#39412765)

    It may be just me, but if one part of an article is retracted due to false statements or intentional innacuracies, with apologies from the publisher on releasing the story into the wild, I'm not going to base an opinion on ANY OTHER PART of the article or any other material sourced by that author. I'll have an opinion, but I'll base it on other sources.

  • Buy Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <vincent DOT jan DOT goh AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:00AM (#39412773) Homepage

    Listen, Apple's no angel, and neither is anyone else. I think we can all agree on that.

    But Apple is the company making the biggest noticeable difference in this space. Whether that's out of the goodness of their hearts (unlikely) or the fact that the know they're under greater scrutiny because they're the big fish in this pond (considerably more likely), it does mean that the workers in the Apple foxconn factories are the ones that are likely to see the benefits of Apple's largess first.

    Almost universally, however, workers at these factories feel they're better off than they would have been if they'd stayed in rural China. It IS a choice they make to work there; they line up to apply for jobs.

    If that remains unconvincing to you--which is fair--write your political representatives and get them to try and convince the Chinese government to pass better worker protection laws and enforce them. Ultimately, it shouldn't be up to Apple, Samsung, Google or the consumers to protect the people of China.

    • I agree 100% (except for that part where Apple is making the biggest noticeable difference). The US and many other countries started their economic fortunes using such things as child labor and poor working conditions. Out of those conditions rise better working conditions and higher wages. I get so tired of the comments about so-and-so working in poverty, when in many of these places, sustenance farming is the norm and any money received is used to make one's life better, no matter how small the amount. N
    • Ultimately, it shouldn't be up to Apple, Samsung, Google or the consumers to protect the people of China.

      That's true enough, but neither does it absolve those parties of responsibility. Nothing is stopping Apple from refraining from using business partners where workers are treated poorly, even if that means not doing business in China.

    • The fact that workers are better off in these factories doesn't mean much, given that China is a brutal, repressive dictatorship. If the Chinese authorities leave conditions in the country so bad that near slavery in towns is better, despite their need for farming, then the desire of workers to escape the countryside is unsurprising. "Encouraging" the population to move to the towns to replicate the Industrial Revolution makes sense for the Chinese global strategy, but giving people a choice between agraria
    • I am pretty sure that Samsung workers in Korea (where phones are assembled) would not switch place with Foxconn workers in China...
      So how is Apple making a positive difference here again?

  • RIM/Blackberry (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alphax45 (675119) <kyle.alfred@gmai ... m minus caffeine> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:00AM (#39412775)
    AFAIK they are made in Mexico and/or Canada
    As always mixture of foreign and domestic parts.

    As a side note: Depending on how low level you want to go (eg: all the individual parts) you will never find a phone that is made under worker friendly conditions unless you mine the raw materials yourself and go from there. Of course this is NOT realistic!
    • Mine was made in Hungary...which used to have a considerable phone-making business back in the Soviet Union era. But I think the BB Playbook is Chinese.

      That said, I suspect that globalisation is heading into a lot of flak at the moment. There has always been a conflict between the perceived strategic needs of the US and what American corporations will do. In WW2 they were the begin with supplying both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union with arms and technology although it was not in the interests of the USA

  • by derfla8 (195731) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:00AM (#39412777)

    I find it a crazy FWP that people are so fixated on workers rights in countries where the work they are getting in factories are much better than the alternative. Yet we ignore the plight of minimum wage workers in North America. In major metropolitan areas where housing is unaffordable and public transit is sadly there, why don't we fix things for our own before aiding those who haven't really ask you for your opinion?

    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:37AM (#39413159) Homepage Journal

      why don't we fix things for our own before aiding those who haven't really ask you for your opinion?

      False dichotomy. We can and should help both workers here and abroad. And they in fact have asked us for our help in many cases, let alone our opinion.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Because our workers HERE are hurting because the work's all being shipped to countries where it's easier to exploit their impoverished workers. How about we try and get good wages and working conditions for EVERYONE? If there's a place where companies can treat their workers like shit and foul the air and water, that's where they're going.

  • Japanese phones (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) <{ten.3dlrow} {ta} {ojom}> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:02AM (#39412799) Homepage

    Japanese manufacturers like Sharp are probably your best bet as they do have factories in Japan. Of course many of the components will have been made in China, but that is about the best you can hope for. Unfortunately I don't think Sharp do any phones outside of Japan.

    Maybe LG or Samsung. I know they use Chinese factories for some manufacture, but they do have some assembly done in South Korea. That is about the best you can hope for.

    • Actually Sharp is a component manufacturer as well - I buy a variety of Sharp components and I'm pretty sure they are made in Japan. I've got a Sharp 5V regulator sitting on my desk right now and it has "Japan" clearly (but very tiny) printed on it. Toshiba makes amazingly good components as well.

    • Japan: 25 per 100,000
      Foxconn: 2.5 per 100,000
    • by Tellarin (444097)

      I can tell you that there is a world of difference between production lines for Nokia and LG/Samsung. Nokia is much more worker-friendly overall, from R&D to manufacturing.
      However, Nokia does use components produced by others (Chinese and Korean companies among them) that don't necessarily follow the same procedures. Nonetheless, Nokia tries to influence work environment on these, both from people and ecological points of view (to varying degrees of success, of course).

      Full disclosure: I do work on proj

  • by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:04AM (#39412817) Homepage Journal

    If it's not made by machines, the odds are it's made by underpaid and overworked humans in some overseas sweatshop conditions.

    North Americans and Europeans aren't willing to pay for the true cost of the labour.

    I seem to recall an article estimating what it would cost to manufacture an iPad in North America with the unions, health and safety regulations, and so on respected. They came up with a number in the neighbourhood of $1400.

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:31AM (#39413099)
      Cost of labour is a tiny part of the cost of electronic devices nowadays. Believe me...I have worked as an industrial engineer, and I believe that the issue is much more related to the desire to reduce working capital employed, incentives offered by foreign governments, corruption, and fashion - moving assembly to China was seen as big dick swinging by many executives, who could also avoid some of that pesky having to manage people stuff. Assemblers do not want to invest in dedicated automation.

      A converse example is the car industry, where automation is unavoidable because the assemblies are too heavy to be easily manipulated by people. The result is that cars get made in the USA, Europe and Japan.

      I suspect that whoever cited $1400 to make an iPad in the US was either manufacturing-illiterate or had a financial incentive to misrepresent the facts. I would be surprised if assembly in the US added more than $25 to the cost, and unsurprised to find it was more like $5 when everything was taken into account.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Lets have some fun with the numbers, since the greater american population is completely innumerate and will never try it for themselves. A recent press release claimed that foxcon has some of the highest paid assembly line workers in the country at $290/month or at 6 day weeks 10 hours a day 4 weeks a month thats about $1.20/hr. A cousin in law of mine work(ed) in HR at an electronics assembler, and the illegal aliens they employed got a bit above minimum wage but not much, lets say $8/hr.

        Now my old ipad

        • by jeffmeden (135043)

          Now my old ipad 1 was I think, $400. So $200 for retail profit, $100 wholesale profit, figure labor and parts cost a 50:50 ratio that gives about $50 "worth" of labor to build a ipad 1. First of all I cry bogus as thats roughly 42 hours of work to assemble and pack a ipad into a box. That just screams bogus. I've done work inside apple products and its an unholy PITA to replace a battery requiring complete disassembly, but it never takes more than an hour for a completely inexperienced American to do it the first time, so I'm unclear why an experienced Chinese takes 42 times longer to do the same work.

          When iSuppli lists manufacturing costs (and they are pretty keen on those things) they rarely exceed 10% of the "cost of good sold" and in fact, when analyzing the "new iPad" here is what they came up with:

          Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) cost to produce the 32-gigabyte, 4G long-term evolution version of its new third-generation iPad is $375.10[...] The market research firm said the $364.35 estimated bill of materials, which excludes $10.75 for manufacturing costs,

          So you can probably count on no more than about 5% of the COGS to go to the worker. (the 32GB, LTE version is at 3% but probably has marginally higher complexity with much higher component cost vs the 16GB wifi version.) Anyhow, carry on, interesting thesis you have there...

          • by vlm (69642)

            Hmm

            which excludes $10.75 for manufacturing costs,

            So going from 1.20/hr China workers to 8/hr illegal mexicans in the USA would boost the cost of a ipad less than $70. My gut level estimate in the last line of less than $100 was pretty good...

      • by thoth (7907)

        I posted below that I think he's referring to this article:
        http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/05/how-much-would-the-ipad-2-cost-if-it-were-made-in-the-us-about-1-140/238508/ [theatlantic.com]

        You can read it yourself and argue with the authors over their methodology.

        But essentially they estimate 9 hours of labor to manufacture, at a Chinese rate of $1.11/hr vs a US rate of $32.53/hr. That's $10 (China) vs $292.77 (US).

        The entire reason "cost of labour is a tiny part of the cost of the electronic devices" is BECA

    • North Americans and Europeans are willing to pay for the true worth of the labour. If Fred is willing to do a task for $10 less than Bill, then the true worth is what Fred is asking for, not Bill.

      Unions and government regulations are responsible for companies not being able to pay the true worth of labour. Greed has increased wages so high in those places that many firms have flocked to China and other countries in order to pay the true worth of labour. I'd love to get paid the same for working 35 hours
    • by thoth (7907)

      Perhaps you were thinking of this article:
      http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/05/how-much-would-the-ipad-2-cost-if-it-were-made-in-the-us-about-1-140/238508/ [theatlantic.com]

      They estimate $1140... if they price at a level that retains the same gross margin. Whether or not people would buy it if it were that much is entirely another matter.

      The article also estimates the iPad 2 would cost $617.77 using various averages for U.S. manufacturing/mining/construction compensation. That's still a profit (using $729 for

  • by Zadaz (950521)

    But then again virtually nothing made in a factory is made under "Worker friendly conditions."

    Very few things at all in fact. Your food, for example. Explore where that all comes from. Anything sold at a Big Box store. Video Games for large companies. Movies.

    There are few Worker Friendly products out there because the point isn't to be nice to the workers, it's to make money.

    If you want things produced with respect for the workers, buy things produced locally by small businesses or individuals. However y

  • by prgrmr (568806)
    HTC is headquartered in Taiwan, not mainland China. Does anyone know if they manufacture their phones in Taiwan or in China?
    • Re:HTC ? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:33AM (#39413131) Homepage

      HTC is headquartered in Taiwan, not mainland China. Does anyone know if they manufacture their phones in Taiwan or in China?

      HTC manufactures in various countries, including mainland China. Foxconn is also headquartered in Taiwan, so there's really no correlation between where their CEO sits and where manufacturing happens.

      I find it interesting that those most upset about Foxconn factory conditions have never been there, and those that have been there lied about what they saw.

  • Because with all the regulations America has, something like that would never happen.
    OH WAIT. That's why all these phones are manufactured overseas, safe labor set ups be damned.
  • by satuon (1822492) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:26AM (#39413059)

    If Foxconn employees aren't happy with the wages and the working conditions I'm sure they know where the door is.

  • Reuse (Score:4, Interesting)

    by necro81 (917438) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:35AM (#39413143) Journal
    If you are worried about the social and environmental impact of your smartphone, you aren't going to be satisfied by any of the options on the market. A consolation prize, if you will, would be to purchase a used phone. You can get even the latest phones on the used market, and in so doing you prevent it from ending up in a landfill or "recycler" in the third world. Plus, the social and environmental impact of that phone has already been made. I won't say your conscience gets off scot free, but you could argue (to yourself and others) that those impacts are borne more by the original purchaser than you, the second purchaser. You can't fix the harm that originally went into making the phone, but you can prevent additional harm by not purchasing a new one.

    This calculus works for lots of things besides smartphones. The one I particularly like is to consider buying a used honda civic that gets 35+ mpg as a replacement for a gas guzzler, rather than purchasing a new prius.
    • by ledow (319597)

      In some countries, 35mpg IS a gas-guzzler.

      -- An Englishman who drives a 16-year-old car that gets 40mpg without even trying (for the past three years, zero testing issues), and cost £300 second-hand. I get charged slightly higher road tax and insurance because it's considered a "large" engine (1.8) that's not very green.

      That car existed before I turned of legal age to drive and gets more than 35mpg without having to use premium fuels, hybrid fuels, LPG, etc. I had an LPG quote last year.

  • by Tronster (25566) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:37AM (#39413165) Homepage

    ", while his work has been discredited, Michael Daisey wasn't inaccurate in his claims that working conditions are poor in iPhone and iPad factories."

    That statement is nonsense.

    Michael Daisey was discredited because working conditions were fine for iPhone or iPad factories; none of the horrible things he had reported on were true upon his visit. I've listened to original piece (when it aired) as well as the full retraction. He had to create lies based what he'd heard of previous (outlawed) practices of various Chinese manufactures as well fabricate people, events, and conversations in order to invoke an emotional response. Then he repeatedly, unapologetically used the theater as a scapegoat as to why he could tell people that he was telling a factual account, but in reality, was more lie than occurrence.

    That said, the OP does have a good question about sweatshop free phones. I wish there was a list for all goods and services; seems internet searches pull up a lot of hits for clothing and apparel, but not so much for electronics.

  • by Roxton (73137) <roxton.gmail@com> on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @09:42AM (#39413235) Homepage Journal

    There is no ethical smartphone [salon.com].

  • Most of your clothes is made by slaved children, processed foods is made by slaved Mexicans, and electronics is made by slaved Asians. And when I mean SLAVE, it really is slavery! These people have no choice but to work in these places.
  • If someone is desperate enough to take one of those crappy worker-unfriendly jobs, then doesn't it follow that they likely need it even more than one of the workers from a more worker-friendly company/nation? Are you helping them by encouraging the movement of jobs elsewhere, when even they agreed that the job was better than the alternative (ie. starvation)?

    • by unimacs (597299)
      I think that's a poor justification.

      If you listened all the way to the end of the retraction show, Ira Glass interviewed somebody else who did a more even handed investigation into Apple and Foxconn.

      The biggest problem I have with what Apple does is that IT sets the price they are willing to pay allowing only a thin margin of profit for the supplier. Because being a supplier for Apple carries with it a certain amount of prestige, the suppliers are willing to go along with this.

      The problem is that t
  • Apple issues a monthly report of working conditions throughout for all it's suppliers.

    From the report regarding indentured migrant labor...

    "As a result of our expanded audits in 2011, suppliers reimbursed $3.3 million in excess foreign contract worker fees, bringing to $6.7 million the total that has been repaid to workers since 2008."

    http://www.apple.com/supplierresponsibility/code-of-conduct/labor-and-human-rights.html [apple.com]

  • They may be severe by US labor standards. But in China they are considered among the best by workers. With all the foreign pressures there is some attempt toward safe conditions. They actual pay their workers instead of disappearing some random Sunday. Applicants line up by the thousands for these relatively desirable jobs.
  • According to this article, "Apple fully traced its supply chains for the four conflict minerals—tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold—which is further than other companies have gone."

    http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/blog/post/new-report-apple-strong-supply-chain-tracing-weak-certification [raisehopeforcongo.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    From 2009 to 2011 you could buy a Garmin-Asus phone in the US. The nuvifone G60 was designed mostly by Garmin in Kansas, and hardware and low level software engineering and manufacturing was done by Asus in Taiwan. Asus is known for good working conditions, fair labor policies, and a refusal to work with suppliers with who do not share their ethics. While the software left a bit to be desired, the quality of the device was superb, and had an extremely low failure rate. However, because the device had so

  • In the US in the early days, we had slavery and child labor and all sorts of things like this. And prior to all of this globalization, we managed to get rid of slave labor, child labor, set higher working conditions and lots more and still somehow managed to raise the standard of living for just about everyone across the nation. What we have even today is way better than what others have in other countries though that may change for us in the US before long. But if the world were to make a change as the

  • The fact is, the way we have society set up and corporations set up, there aren't any good options. We're all allowing this current paradigm to continue...basically corporate rule. With the goal of business being maximum profit at all costs, externalities be damned, there aren't any good options until you start to think outside the current economic paradigm. What I'm saying is that the way corporations/businesses are set up, we can't help but do evil as a society. So the answer to the original quesiton
  • As usual with energy/environment/social related questions, it's easy to answer but hard to accept.
    Here are some facts :
    *) You probably don't need it. I know /. is heavily gadget-oriented, and I also love to play with techy new stuff. But the truth is that nobody *needs* a smart phone. It's cool to have a linux kernel in the pocket, it can be fun and convenient to always have Angry Birds and emails on the go, but people can survive without it.
    *) It uses gold, silver, tantalum, platinum, palladium, lead, tin,

  • by Shadowmist (57488) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @11:23AM (#39414561)
    At this point the question should be is there anything that you're buying in stores like Walmart, Best Buy, or the Dollar Stores which are starting to supplant them, that doesn't involve a sweatshop in it's production. I suspect that the question is something that not many people are going to want to search the answer to. It's pretty hypocritical to suddenly launch on Apple for Foxcomm, when we've been tolerating far worse conditions to get our Nikes.
  • by Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @12:15PM (#39415347)
    If you're concerned about the way something is manufactured, don't buy it new. Yes, by buying a used item you're increasing the resale value of it, which makes a tiny difference in how much the company can charge for it new. But otherwise you're not supporting the manufacturer.

    This is helpful in all sorts of areas, not just with tech manufacturing. If I find an authors to be loathsome in his politics -- I'm looking at you, Mr. Card -- I'll buy his books used. That way I get to read what I want, but don't have to give money to someone whose ideas I find repulsive. Sure, I have to hunt around to find a copy, and maybe deal with dog-eared pages and someone else's underlining, but if you feel strongly about something you should be willing to live with minor inconveniences.

Truth is free, but information costs.

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