“Out of sight out of mind” is the perfect phrase to describe the type of relationship many fortune 500 companies have with their oversees manufacturers. I found it most appropriate that the end of the podcast left its listeners singing this particular expression. When I first started listening to Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory, I’ll have to admit I didn’t exactly know where the story was going. Mike’s love and obsession with apple was pretty humorous along with his introduction into Shenzhen as a “large American wearing a god damn Hawaiian shirt.” I didn’t fully understand the purpose of his journey to Shenzhen and the mention of the four pictures on the Iphone until later in the story when the mood significantly changed from humorous to depressing. The same questions that Mike asked himself are the ones that many of us seem to ignore when we tear off the made in China stickers on our everyday products. Who are these people that made this product? How did they make it? What are their lives like? Mike’s quest to find the answers to these questions by traveling through Shenzhen was an eye opener for me personally because I too have been at fault when it comes to looking at the bigger picture in oversees manufacturing. We picture thousands of people working on large pieces of machinery which do the majority of the work at a cheap cost to the consumer. However, Mike proved this to be a fabrication of this process by witnessing the hundreds of thousands of workers huddled together for 16+ hours every day in absolute silence with the sound of only bodies in constant amending motion.
I found it very interesting that Apple refused to respond on air to Mike’s story which only further strengthened his claims that they are fully aware of their suppliers working conditions. Although they did give reports about oversees work which included a code of conduct that suppliers are to commit to before Apple will do business with them, Apple is still unwilling to give the names of the suppliers that these facts can be verified with. The worker suicide rates are still around the same number per year, as are the number of workers found with health issues resulting from chemical exposure or extreme working conditions. Apple, like many companies around the world, is interested in developing new products, reducing manufacturing costs as much as possible, and increasing consumer want and revenue. Looking at my Iphone and Ipod that I use everyday has me asking the same questions that Mike was curious about while he was in the factory. Who was the person who cleaned my screen or tediously put together each chip and device into the products that I’ve never really thought about before? Or to an even more extreme assumption, did anyone die over this Iphone that I have the privilege of enjoying every day? These questions are things we should all consider while we take for granted the opportunities and luxuries we have while living in the United States.