The New York Times Exposes Apple, Foxconn, and the 2 Percent

Tim Cook, Apple COO, in january 2009, after Ma...
Tim, you can fix this in an instant. Stop subsidizing the human cost of your devices.

In this case, the 2 percent refers to this:

Fortunately for the bottom line, the touch-screen hungry public doesn’t seem to mind: “In a national survey conducted by The New York Times in November, 56 percent of respondents said they couldn’t think of anything negative about Apple. Fourteen percent said the worst thing about the company was that its products were too expensive. Just 2 percent mentioned overseas labor practices.”

So, 2 percent of people responding to that November survey had the dangerous conditions in the Apple production line on their radar.  Hopefully, that’s starting to change. Unfortunately, conditions on the ground in China aren’t.  Read the NYT‘s huge, detailed portrait of these conditions, published yesterday, here.  Thanks to New York Magazine for the heads up.  Thanks to Mike Daisey for putting this on America’s moral agenda.  We’ve been talking about it here for over a year.  When I wrote an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook on The Huffington Post after Steve Jobs’ passing, I didn’t know that one of Cook’s former gigs at Apple was “guy in charge of finding the cheapest production lines possible” and “guy who found Foxconn.”  Still, Tim, the challenge stands.  Change Apple’s ethics abroad, and create your own Apple legacy now.

The High Cost of Cheap Goods, Our American Life, and Mike Daisey

The Atlantic recaps recent events at Foxconn and notes that Mike Daisey will be on this week’s This American Life:

Daisey goes to Shenzhen, China, where Foxconn employs over 400,000 workers. He talks to both factory workers and businessmen, gathering chilling information about the situation at the factory, discovering suicide nets, 36-hour shifts, 27-year-old burn outs with dismembered limbs and underage workers. Wouldn’t Apple, a company obsessed with details — so obsessed it even programmed Siri to avert uncomfortable questions about its origins, as host Ira Glass discovered — pay attention to these very problematic details, wonders Daisey.

You might remember Daisey from a few posts I did here about the high cost of cheap goods and Daisey’s interviews on TechCrunch last year.

And if you haven’t seen it, please read and share my note to Apple CEO Tim Cook  in HuffPo Tech.

Hell Freezes Over:’s PA Sweatshop Workers Endured Extreme Cold During Late Night Evacuations
Image by soumit via Flickr

Thank you, Spencer Soper, for staying on Amazon.  An excerpt from yet another Amazon expose filed by Soper at The Morning Call:

On Nov. 27, someone activated the fire alarm in the Amazon warehouse at 3:26 a.m., forcing an evacuation, according to court documents. Amazon maintains the evacuation lasted approximately one hour and 45 minutes. The fire department responded and no fire was discovered.

As is routine in most emergency evacuations, workers were not permitted to get their coats when alarms sounded unless they happened to have them within reach. Many warehouse workers don’t have a regular work station and store their coats in a break room, so they had to leave in what they were wearing. Because of the physical nature of their jobs and warm temperatures in the warehouse, many employees wear only T-shirts and jeans or shorts while working, several employees said.

Multiple warehouse workers suffered injuries as a result of cold exposure that night and were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, according to Amazon’s account filed in response to Grady’s lawsuit. Those employees returned to work the next day, Amazon said in court records.

A warehouse worker complained to OSHA about workers being exposed to cold during a fire alarm evacuation that night, according to an OSHA file of the incident.

“There were people passing out, having asthma attacks and I do believe a man had a seizure,” said the worker, whose name was redacted in OSHA records.

The same worker and a second one complained about another fire alarm evacuation Dec. 4 that lasted roughly two hours.

“There were pregnant women, men and women in T-shirts and shorts, some with sleeveless shirts and shorts,” one complaint states. “People were passing out and feeling ill left and right. … I am absolutely disgusted with this company’s practices and I do believe OSHA should visit this building and give them some sort of coaching on how to better handle the situation before there are more people suffering from hypothermia.”

I’ve been boycotting Amazon since Soper’s first investigation in September.  I tend to believe workers claiming injury at the hands of giant, careless corporations.  I tend to believe that bureaus like OSHA are well-intentioned and ineffectual.  As a progressive, I tend to distrust the intentions of big business and the deliverability of meaningful correctives by many well-meaning (and many ass-covering) agents of our government.  I have some progressive friends who need to believe at an ontological level that if OSHA doesn’t find anything at Amazon, everything must be fine.  I get all the reasons for that. I get why so many progressives still find it hard to admit Big Labor’s own part in undoing the early advances of the unions.  But being politically honest and being truly progressive means moving past that and realizing the degree to which the agencies we’ve authorized to protect us from unchecked greed have failed in profound and simple ways.

Amazon, you can bet that this story isn’t over.  Plaudits, loud, loud plaudits to you, Spencer Soper, for staying on this.

Kindle Covers For People Who Like To Read

If you’re like me, you haven’t found that perfect Kindle cover yet.  (If you’re like me, you also keep stealing your spouse’s Kindle and won’t stop calling it  “ours” or “mine.”)  It’s not that you’re picky, it’s just that it’s incredibly hard to find a good cover for these things that says “yes, I’m using this to read.”  Everything I keep seeing is somewhere between day-planner and attache and they’re all pink or cordovan (incidentally, both go great with brown).  But today I found these:

Pretty sweet, right?  Check them out here.