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View Diary: Apple and Unbridled Capitalism (248 comments)

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  •  This article is in the NY Times..... (28+ / 0-)

    http://www.nytimes.com/...

    on roughly the same question.  If you can't be essentially a wage slave living in a dorm, ready to be marched out to overtime so Apple can make a deadline, you are not a competitive worker.

    Frankly the article made me sick to my stomach and made me regret every Apple product I have bought recently.  I have been trying to avoid buying Chinese stuff for some time, but unless as consumers we are willing to only buy products made with less oppresive working conditions, we won't affect this.  

    You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

    by murrayewv on Sat Jan 21, 2012 at 02:09:04 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  Good article (12+ / 0-)

      Americans cannot, nor should they try, to compete with Chinese or Indian labor.
      We do not have the labor resources that these entire countries can throw at a job. And American consumers are too apathetic to even care.

      Free trade, a mantra of corporate America, is killing our economy, exploiting foreign labor and creating profits for a select few that are simply disgusting for any moral human being.

      Those jobs wont come back unless laws change that tells company bottom lines that if you want to do business here it will be in your best interest to create jobs here. China puts something like a 40% tariff on foreign imports .. obviously the US market would not stand for that and thus change the way they do business.

      At minimum US corps should demand working conditions be humane and provide the same worker safety as US based corps.

      •  Bull. We are the most productive workforce on (17+ / 0-)

        the planet.  We automate.  We figure out much better, faster, safer ways to manufacture and assemble.

        Apple and the others took the easy way out.. no investment in automation or robotics necessary.. throw cheap people at the problem.  It's disgusting.

        We could likely do those jobs with a comparatively much smaller percentage of workers.  But, yes.. it would cost more. And that is all Apple and HP and the rest of them care about.

        •  Part of the blame should go to Wall Street... (11+ / 0-)

          Why?

          Because Wall Street tends to favor stocks in companies that don't load themselves down with too many expensive capital assets like factories and automation equipment.

          Wall Street's ideal is pretty well exemplified by companies like Apple and Nike -- essentially, design and marketing houses that outsource all the actual manufacturing work.

          Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

          by TexasTom on Sat Jan 21, 2012 at 05:37:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I think you misunderstood (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Food Gas Lodging, victoria2dc

          my statement.

          We cannot compete with the massive amount of physical labor resources that these countries can throw at manufacturing.

          They can automate also, machine up, use robotics all that technology already exists. But they dont utilize it, why? Because they are busy trying to put people to work.

          Just like the US there is more DEMAND for jobs than actual jobs.

          Now isnt that interesting?

        •  Read the article (17+ / 0-)

          Read the article, it's quite interesting. The reason that Apple moved manufacturing from the US to China wasn't wages; wages are a small percentage of the cost. The real reasons are:

          1) The US has destroyed its ability to manufacture, so Apple couldn't staff in the US. Apple estimated that it could take them 9 months to hire enough industrial engineers to run their manufacturing in the US, and in China they hired the same number in 15 days.

          2) The world's manufacturing has moved to the Pacific Rim, so it's more efficient to manufacture there because the suppliers are all there. "Need 1m screws? The factory is two blocks over. Need the screw modified? You'll have it in three hours." So even US manufacturers (e.g. Corning, who makes the glass in the iPhone) set up manufacturing in the Pacific Rim, to be where their customers are.

          Of course, if the US hadn't adopted "free trade" in the 70's, and destroyed its ability to manufacture goods, things might be different. But mass market manufacturing in the US is dead.

          Note that Germany, and Japan, countries that have higher wages and more regulation than the US, are able to compete quite effectively. But then, they have an industrial policy that encourages manufacturing, and training engineers, etc., to be world class. We don't.

          •  Need workers.... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Naniboujou

            wake them up and march them from the dorm for overtime.  Need a building....the government will build it for you.  Need engineers?  Government will train them for you.

            Our government doesn't do this entirely for our manufacturers, but they do build industrial parks and have worker training.  We are a less compliant culture.  And the guy wi the training couldn't keep his job while everything was being shipped to China.  It is complicated, but one thing is for sure, we aren't competing on a level playing field.

            You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

            by murrayewv on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 05:46:22 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  This was true 50 years ago: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          joeshwingding
          We are the most productive workforce on the planet.

          You should take a look on more recent developments and ask yourself: In which sectors can the American industry really compete?

          You'll be shocked.

          There's a reason why America's main exports are movies, software, franchising, and weapons...and the valuable services of the financial industry, of course.

          Productive, my ass.

          "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect." Mark Twain

          by aufklaerer on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 04:55:38 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Issue for Apple is not wages or productivity (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Odysseus

          It is supply chain.

          Same applies in many industries.

          For example, I've worked with garment companies in China.  Even if the wanted to move work to the US at US prices it would be difficult or impossible.

          If you want to make bras in the US where will you find a lamination company that can laminate lace onto fabric and increase production at short capacity?  Where can you find mechanics who know how to fix sock knitting machines?  Where can you find designers who know how to program a sock machine to make a sock with a particular pattern and shape?  Where can you find companies that can provide an order of custom buttons and trims with a 3 day turn around?  

          It goes on and on and on.  It takes decades to build up the industrial ecosystem that makers of complex products rely on.

          I'm working now with some people looking at helping move low end Chinese garment companies to cheaper countries.  It's brutal - you can't bring just one company over.  You need to strike deals with suppliers and suppliers' suppliers to set up co-located operations.

          The US has lost this and getting it back will be difficult or impossible.

    •  I had a different response to the same article. (18+ / 0-)

      It's rather lengthy, but a good read for anyone interested in the subject...
      NY Times: How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work

      It wasn't about Apple's "unbridled" capitalism. What I gat was how America has failed at producing a workforce which is competitive in the world electronics manufacturing market.

      Apple tried to keep their manufacturing in the US, but the, at the time, struggling company had to move their manufacturing  in order to stay competitive.

      In its early days, Apple usually didn’t look beyond its own backyard for manufacturing solutions. A few years after Apple began building the Macintosh in 1983, for instance, Mr. Jobs bragged that it was “a machine that is made in America.” In 1990, while Mr. Jobs was running NeXT, which was eventually bought by Apple, the executive told a reporter that “I’m as proud of the factory as I am of the computer.” As late as 2002, top Apple executives occasionally drove two hours northeast of their headquarters to visit the company’s iMac plant in Elk Grove, Calif.

      But by 2004, Apple had largely turned to foreign manufacturing. Guiding that decision was Apple’s operations expert, Timothy D. Cook, who replaced Mr. Jobs as chief executive last August, six weeks before Mr. Jobs’s death. Most other American electronics companies had already gone abroad, and Apple, which at the time was struggling, felt it had to grasp every advantage.

      The Chinese are serious competitors. For the glass on the new iPhones Jobs had it produced in the US by Corning. But to cut and grind the glass for the phones was a huge task. What did China do to get the bid? Lots...

      When an Apple team visited, the Chinese plant’s owners were already constructing a new wing. “This is in case you give us the contract,” the manager said, according to a former Apple executive. The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory. It had a warehouse filled with glass samples available to Apple, free of charge. The owners made engineers available at almost no cost. They had built on-site dormitories so employees would be available 24 hours a day.

      The Chinese plant got the job.

      How do we compete with this?...

      “The entire supply chain is in China now,” said another former high-ranking Apple executive. “You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.”
      Another critical advantage for Apple was that China provided engineers at a scale the United States could not match. Apple’s executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones. The company’s analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find that many qualified engineers in the United States.

      In China, it took 15 days.

      I'd say the problems run much deeper than Apple out to make a buck.

      "Cannibals prefer those who have no spines." ~ Stanislaw Lem

      by BlogDog on Sat Jan 21, 2012 at 03:34:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ah, but that takes the romance out... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Food Gas Lodging, auapplemac, BlogDog

        Because Apple is seen as "trendy," it automatically becomes prime target, even if it's one of a hundred in the same situation and kept its manufacturing in the US longer than most.

        Multiple-platform for twenty or so years now, I've always observed with great amusement the envy and rage the mere existence of Apple generates in what is fortunately a fairly small minority of tech geeks. Human rights is merely one more excuse, now that "PCs have far more programs" has pretty well reached the end of its shelf life.

        When we are no longer children, we are already dead. (Constantin Brancusi) And whoever gave it, thanks for the gift!

        by sagesource on Sat Jan 21, 2012 at 06:08:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Making a buck is a huge factor (3+ / 0-)

        It makes people uncomfortable to learn that the machines they use are build by companies that exploit workers.

        You imply that Jobs had no choice. He did have choices as do the present directors of Apple.

        The best excuse that they could come up with is that it would take nine months to come up with 8,700 industrial engineers. The article didn't state that Apple couldn't find the engineers, only that it would take nine months. Nine months? That's a poor excuse. In fact it's a decision that was looking for an manufactured excuse.

        But for the sake of argument let's ignore the outsourcing of jobs (which I might add was absolutely terrible when Bain did it). From the article you cite it appears that the Chinese were falling over themselves to accommodate the needs of Mr. Jobs. Gaskets next door. Screws a block away. A brand new wing built "in case" they received the new contract.

        The Apple company and Mr. Jobs had some influence. Perhaps they could have made receiving that new contract contingent on Foxcom paying their workers better, reducing their hours and improving he working conditions. Apple chose not to do so. Why? Perhaps they were unaware of the situation, but I rather doubt it. They definitely know about it now. I think a more reasonable answer is the bottom line.

        A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

        by slatsg on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 08:16:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Heh. You know what happens if you do that, right? (0+ / 0-)

          Then the Foxconn recruiters start selling the jobs - you can't get the job unless you pay the recruiter RMB 10,000 or if you're his type maybe he lets you have the job for a blow job.

          This happens at a lot of factories that increase salaries over the local wage rate for social compliance reasons.  The workers end up no better off but the factory becomes a stew of corruption - the workers pay the recruiters for their jobs, the recruiters pay the HR managers for their jobs, the HR managers pay the head of HR for their jobs, and the head of HR pays the factory manager for his job.

          The factory owners hate this - it's even worse than having to raise wages because once you get this culture it spreads into procurement, admin, etc. and suddenly everyone is stealing from you, including the people who are supposed to be stopping workers from stealing from you.  I worked with one factory in Pakistan where workers were stealing equipment components, throwing them out the window to confederates who would come to the factory door the next morning trying to sell them back at a lower price than buying replacement equipment.

          The only people who lose out in an arrangement like that are the people at the bottom - the workers - since they can't extract rents from anyone below them.

    •  Avoiding Chinese products... (5+ / 0-)

      ...is virtually impossible.  

      Are there any MP3 players built outside of China?  Laptops?  Computer speakers?  In too many instances the choice is buying Chinese-built or not buying at all.  (And, yeah, I know that good arguments can be made for the latter choice...but that's a somewaht separate discussion.)

      Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

      by TexasTom on Sat Jan 21, 2012 at 05:35:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My Mp3 player is from Iceland. No shit. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TexasTom, Odysseus

        The company is called 'United' and it says 'Made in Iceland'. It was a gift, so can't take credit for not buying Chinese.

        Pressuring the transnational corporations seems to be the most effective way to bring about change in the working and living conditions of Chinese workers. Apple is fair game, as are all the other manufacturers.

        "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect." Mark Twain

        by aufklaerer on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 05:02:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I also read the NY Times article, (0+ / 0-)

      with consternation. I don't buy Apple products because I don't like their arrogance. The MP3 is not made by Apple alone. As an example of vulture capitalism, Apple has to be singled out and shamed. Steve Jobs had the gall to tell the White House that those jobs are not coming back to America. He had such a sweet deal with Foxxcom he was proud of it, ignoring the human cost and the cost to the Country that enabled his wealth. The article pointed out the expediancy in scaling operations and the speed of production. At what human cost I ask? As if the planet would be in peril if an i phone with a better screen were delayed by a month! Shame on Apple and the pox on your houses.

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