Amen to Sister Joan! I was a Girl Scout, too!
by Mary Oliver
I listen and look
under the sun’s brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can’t hear
anything, I can’t see anything —
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green
stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,
nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker —
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.
And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing —
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,
the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet —
all of it
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.
And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt
swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.
Lots of knitting, not enough cleaning. Lots of kid stuff, and house stuff, and wibbling over personal school stuff. Still in love with several people. Still puzzling over religion and politics and why people are shits to one another.
Still not King. Still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Learning not to talk so much.
CEO, Apple, Inc.
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
Dear Mr. Cook,
I am one of the millions of people who use an iPhone every day. It’s stylish and easy to use and it enables me to check my email at anytime from anywhere. I often use my iPhone to reply to urgent emails I receive from China Labor Watch‘s investigators about the status of their investigations of Apple’s Chinese supplier factories. I also use my iPhone to answer questions from journalists about the working conditions in those factories. As a labor activist who has spent over a decade fighting against sweatshops, buying an iPhone was not an easy decision for me to make. Although the international anti-sweatshop movement has recently trained its focus on Apple’s supply chain, I find that the labor conditions in Apple’s Chinese supplier factories are actually not the worst of the factories used by multinational electronics companies there.
However, this is what “not the worst” means for workers in the factories that make your products:
– They have to work as long as 11 hours a day, 6 days a week with only one hour-long break during lunch. For this they only make about 2000 RMB a month, which at current exchange rates is only $320.
– Those that work in the iPad case polishing workshop are exposed to vast amounts of aluminum dust and may be injured or even killed in an explosion should the dust ignite. This has happened twice in the past year. First, in May 2011 at a Foxconn plant in Chengdu (3 killed, 15 injured) and then in December 2011 at a Ri Teng plant in Shanghai (61 injured).
– At the factories of Foxconn, one of your largest suppliers, 13 workers committed suicide in 2010. Foxconn’s response of putting up nets on factory buildings to catch suicidal jumpers indicates that it believes this is an ongoing concern, since many of the environmental factors that may have led to the workers taking their lives — including long working hours, social isolation and loss of agency — remain unchanged.
As a result, that Apple’s suppliers aren’t the worst in the Chinese electronics industry probably says more about other Chinese factories than it does about the ones your company uses.
As you said in your letter of January 26th to Apple’s employees, Apple has done more recently to improve these conditions, having disclosed its full list of supplier factories, made efforts to “inspect more factories” and “educate workers about their rights” and even “opened our supply chain for independent evaluations by the Fair Labor Association.” This assumes that the problem is with Apple’s suppliers, rather than with Apple itself. However, there are still two big questions that Apple needs to answer before it can truly claim that this is the case.
First, how can a company that claims to make working conditions a priority make such astronomical profits at a time when those making its products are obviously suffering? Recently, Apple has seen its profitability soar to new heights. In the first quarter of the 2012 fiscal year, Apple made $46.33 billion in revenue and made a net profit of $13.06 billion, its largest profit ever and one of the largest quarterly profits of any American company in history. And you, personally, received stock options worth $380 million shortly afterwards. Let’s do some simple math. The $13.06 billion net profit Apple made in one single quarter is equal to the combined salary of 300,000 workers at Foxconn’s assembly line over the course of eleven years. And the value of your options alone could pay for those 300,000 workers’ salaries for that extremely profitable quarter. And remember, those workers have to work 240 hours a month or more and some workers are required to stand all day long without a restroom break.
Second, how can a company with as much control over its manufacturing process as Apple has not already know what labor conditions are like in its supply chain? From our research, the production processes (and by extension, the intensity of the work that employees have to perform) at supplier factories have been approved by Apple. Apple’s quality controls mean that only those who meet the standards Apple design can get a production order. The raw materials the factories use have to be purchased from the suppliers Apple designates. As a result, most supplier factories manufacture products according to Apple’s specific guidelines and have no ability to alter them.
We believe that the answer to these questions is that the problem is not a result of a few “bad apples,” in the midst of the supply chain but is rather deeply rooted in your company’s business model. It’s a systemic problem resulting as much from decisions made in Cupertino, California as from those made in Chengdu, China.
We believe the most basic cause of the problems at Apple’s supplier factories is the low price Apple insists on paying its supplier factories, leaving next to no room for them to make a profit. The demand for astronomically high production rates at an extremely low price pushes factories to exploit workers, since it is the only way to meet Apple’s production requirements and make its factory owners a profit at the same time.
To be fair, Apple’s problems are not unique. They are faced by the entire electronics industry and its customers as they attempt to manage a global manufacturing system that locates factories wherever the cost of production is cheapest. The key choice Apple has to make as a company is whether it will try to shift the attention of journalists and the public towards the individual factories that make their products, or will sincerely acknowledge its responsibility for these factories’ deplorable working conditions and make systemic changes to its supply chain.
Over the years, China Labor Watch has sent many letters to Apple about our investigations of its Chinese supplier factories, hoping that we could work together to find a way to solve the problems workers face. But Apple has never responded. However, we now feel that perhaps the time for analysis has ended. There is a simple solution for the problems we have observed in Apple’s supply chain. And it doesn’t even involve raising the prices on the American consumer who buys its products. It is simply sharing a larger proportion of Apple’s sizable profits with the supplier factories it contracts with, and by extension, the people who make its products. And perhaps if Apple’s customers no longer have to worry about the ethical implications of buying an iPhone, it will be able to go on to earn even more in the future.
Founder and Director, China Labor Watch
- Petitioners want ‘ethical iPhone’ (bbc.co.uk)
- 35,000 Sign Petition Calling For Apple To Stop Worker Abuse In Chinese Factories (cultofmac.com)
Lyrics by Matt Johnson
Satellite, oh, satellite who sits upon our skies
How deep do you see, when you spy into our lives?
I know that God lives in everybody’s soul
And the only Devil in your world lives in the human heart
So now, ask yourself, what is human? What is truth?
Ask yourself, whose voice is it, that whispers unto you?
From the cellars of your homes, from the tops of your city roofs
Ask yourself, whose voice is it, that whispers unto you?
Who is it, that turns your blood into spirit, and your spirit into blood?
Who is it, that can reach down from above
And set your souls ablaze with love
Or fill you with the insanity of violence and its brother, lust?
Who is it, whose words have been twisted beyond recognition
In order to build, your planet Earth’s religions?
Who is it, who could make your little armies of the left
And your little armies of the right, light up your skies tonight, tonight?
Now, some of you may live and some of you may die
But remember, that nothing in your world, can kill you inside
For he is thinkin’ of you, in your great cities of great solitude
Oh children, you’ve still got a lot to fuckin’ learn
The only path to Heaven is via Hell
Good morning beautiful, good morning beautiful
Good morning beautiful, goodbye world
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”