A decade ago my old friend and colleague Joel Johnson told me “I’m going to China.” Not to become a Buddhist, but to go around Shenzhen, have some ‘he fen’ in good conditions and see with your own eyes how you work at Foxconn, the mega-corporation that makes iPhones and other Apple products. The thing was very bad there. And from what we’ve just learned, it still is. Especially if you are a Uyghur.
At Gizmodo we had spent 2010 writing about suicides in the “hellish factory”From iPhones and iPads. The Cupertino people were getting beat up everywhere. Foxconn employees were dropping like flies, literally. Some for depression, others for stress, some for their families to charge a suicide premium. All for inhumane working conditions with prison wages. Those who did not commit suicide, lived or died like banshees, exhausted after working 34 hours straight. The situation was such that Foxconn had installed networks in all the buildings of its large industrial complex to avoid the photo of brains scattered on the sidewalks.
“This is worse than Foxconn”: Apple’s Chinese workers, portrayed
In 2012, Tim Cook traveled to Zhengzhou to review the working conditions at Foxconn. Now another unexpected problem has arisen for the company
Apple declared herself scandalized and surprised at that semi-slavery party, as if they did not know what the pod was about, in plan Captain Renault at Rick Blaine’s underground casino. “But what are you telling me!”, Which Dona Manolita would say to a neighbor as if she did not know that Paquito and the tobacconist get perched every time Paco needs some pitis. Doña Manolita is the neighborhood kiosk, but he has us all controlled as if he were the Stasi.
At the time, Apple’s Doña Manolita was Katie Cotton, Steve Jobs’s supreme PR. The Cotton was not a shark. It was a real megalodon. 50% evil genius, 50% sociopath and 100% cheeky. I still remember the day he called me to yell at me on the phone after asking him for a comment on Steve Jobs’ cancer return exclusive. That was the appetizer of what would happen years later, when Jobs sent us to his Gestapo after the iPhone 4 lost in the bar.
The working conditions at Foxconn was the final straw. All the media, from the ‘New York Times’ to the Sebastopol parish leaflet distributed firewood and Cotton had no choice but to launch a campaign announcing that they were going to do everything possible to make that change. Audits! Corporate responsability! Human rights! Cotton and the Cupertino bosses wailed as they crossed themselves. Jobs save us from fucking sales.
Come on, the typical bullshit in the face of a gallery that wrote “this is a scandal!” on Twitter from his brand new iPhone 4, me included.
Since then, Apple has been filled with how responsible, inclusive and diverse they are with their entire workforce. Unfortunately, it is not so. In 2012, the ABC program ‘Nightline’ issued a report in which they found that not much had changed. As another of my colleagues titled, Foxconn’s reality is that “better” is still wrong. A Apple’s own report claimed that two-thirds of all its suppliers forced their employees to work longer hours than allowed by the Chinese legal limit, but that would not happen from there. Promised. Word of Jobs, we beg you, hear us.
Do not go yet, there is still more, what Porky Pig would say. The following year more problems were discovered with another Apple supplier: Pegatron. Cupertino defended himself arguing that had audited that company since 2007 and had found nothing at all. Really good, but come on, what if that would investigate the new allegations. Or something. Last year, the non-governmental organization China Labor Watch He again accused Apple of turning a blind eye to Foxconn’s new abuses of its workers during the production of the iPhone 11. According to CLW, Foxconn continues to violate Chinese labor laws, but Cook and his mariachis are seen to be brought to the hilt because they continue working with them like nothing.
At this point it is clear that what counts is the peel and that’s it. In fact, we are going to much worse. This same week, the ‘Washington Post’ published the news that one of Apple’s key suppliers was using Uighur forced labor. According to the ‘WaPo’, the company Lens Technology forces former Uighur concentration camp prisoners to make components for Apple devices.
A report from the US Congress says that Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola and Calvin Klein would be among the companies that use Uighur forced labor
The Cupertino company has flatly denied this (in Spain, contacted by El Confidencial, the head of public relations has silenced us for an answer), saying that they they know for good that their production lines at Lens Technology do not use forced labor of “reconditioned” Uighurs. To the rest of the production lines, then give them. Other Lens Technology customers, by the way, are Tesla and Amazon. That response from Apple seems like a clear indicator that it knows what is going on in those factories but decides to ignore it.
The news only confirms what we already assumed. As Bloomberg points out, a report of the United States Congress say what Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola and Calvin Klein they would be among the companies that use forced labor in the “autonomous” Uyghur region, in Xinjiang. This devastating report forced the American Congress to create a law entitled Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which requires that all American companies use neither prisoners nor forced laborers in any aspect of the manufacture of their products.
Right here, my friends, comes the culmination of Apple’s impudence and hypocrisy: the ‘Washington Post’ featured on November 20 how the Cupertino company would have secretly met with congressmen to try to “water down” the law that prohibits trading with companies that use forced laborers. Logically, Apple responded by saying that the ‘Washington Post’ exclusive was “fake news”, as if it were the Trump clown. They are advocates of social justice. Missing plus. Fortunately, the law ended up passing unanimously without the changes demanded by the Apple lobby. It will be necessary to see if it works or if it is just makeup so that no one feels bad about Black Friday.
Is logical to imagine that the same happens with Huawei, Xiaomi or any other Chinese manufacturer. The only difference between American or European companies and Chinese is the hypocrisy of the former, but the case of Apple is especially bloody. Forcing people to make gadgets is terrible whoever does it, but when you go cool through life beating yourself on the chest, announcing that you are the company that respects the environment the most (is not true), Privacy (another milonga) and human rights (what a folly), corporate falsehood reaches the level of those homophobic telepreachers who are always caught with pornography of 6-year-olds on the MacBook.
And then there are all of us, of course. When Joel came from China he asked me a simple question: What is our responsibility in all this? I asked them about the letter to the Magi a couple of days ago and they sent me an SMS with the headline of this column.