January 31, 2012

Dying For Apple

There are disturbing reports coming persistently now from China about the conditions of many Chinese workers, indeed workers from throughout the industrializing world, who make the products Americans are using every day without a thought. There are reports of workers dying, unsafe conditions, conditions of near immobilization as workers are restricted to their dormitories by policy and heavy workloads of more than 60 hours a week. We, in America, have long recognized that this treatment of workers is wrong; that workers have natural rights and that likewise child labor is inappropriate.

Yet as all these consumer goods are being made "out of sight, out of mind," so the consuming public remains largely ignorant of these egregious abuses to workers. As I sit here typing on an Apple computer, I am vexed and less pleased with my machine knowing now that Apple has gone abroad for some time now; just recently dust in Chinese factories has sparked explosions with many workers maimed or burned alive in the resulting fires. American industry has known for at least a century now how to prevent factory fires from dust: simple, adequate ventilation does the trick. And yet abroad they are dying by the hundreds so that millions here at home can have greater spending power, more consumption, and quite frankly cheaper goods. Meanwhile our national values about fair labor are eroding.

I don't feel any sense of social justice in continuing the status quo, nor the rightness that I should have a long, convenient life while young workers abroad are losing theirs for some savings to my pocketbook. There is a true cost to industrial safety that goes beyond the amount per hour paid in wages. It is a cost of ones' life and well being. There is now, I realize, a good reason why at least in sum, American goods cost more: the people who make them, for the most part, work in safe facilities and will very likely go home every night to their families. They will not be maimed or immolated while on the job. So now my reason for buying American, or at least from countries with strong worker safety records is clear. When I use something I bought, I can rest in the thought that not only my nation may benefit but also the individual who actually created the item on a far away assembly line who will likely be alive and well at the end of their work shift.

Join in a Simple life; make ethical choices about what and where you consume. Ask questions. Care about the environment and mankind in general. Advocate for worker safety world wide. Doing so will benefit you personally and the common good equally.

No comments: