Boycotting Apple?

If you paid attention to the latest technology news this week, Apple has fallen under scrutiny for the working conditions of their Chinese factory workers. While Apple has been open about their own supplier responsibility policies, the fact remains that workers face shitty conditions, low pay, and 24/7 commitment to the plant. While these realities are sad, Brooke Crothers of CNET reminds everyone to be consistent when jumping on the boycott bandwagon:

But should you boycott Apple products, as many commenters have suggested and some publications are now calling on you to do? That question opens a pandora’s box that taken to its logical conclusion would mean eschewing pretty much all devices made in China–including the one on which you’re reading this post.

If you plan on boycotting Apple, will you also boycott Microsoft, IBM, or any of these companies? On principle, how could you choose only one? Practically speaking, how could you choose them all?

A big problem is that companies simply won’t manufacture products in the U.S. Why? Well, us of course. Americans demand products that are cheap, available in large quantities, and sold within driving distance. Americans are also unwilling to work for the pay/hours required to meet those demands. China offers an unbeatable cadre of scalable factories with cheap manufacturing costs. Crothers explains:

The point is, those U.S. plants, relatively speaking, are not worker intensive. And that’s what the U.S. has become pretty good at. Very high-end high-tech manufacturing that doesn’t require many workers.

Like it or not, high-tech worker-intensive manufacturing–what Foxconn does–is an unstoppable Chinese juggernaut. And peek inside a lot of those factories–like factories in Japan and the U.S. years back–and you’ll get sick watching the sausage get made.

So, the most realistic solution is for Apple to keep pressuring Foxconn to improve working conditions while also taking responsibility by toning down the impossible demands it makes on the Chinese supply chain.

As I previously asked:

The real question is, are U.S. consumers willing to trade their expectations of affordable pricing and immediate availability for improved working conditions?

So far, the answer is ‘no’. If your answer is ‘yes’, Crothers suggests that you don’t just stop with Apple.