It’s a sad day. I just found out my beloved Macbook Pro may have been assembled using child labor.
Even worse, over 60 employees that work in an Apple factory were recently poisoned (and at least one died) from n-hexane. I didn’t know what n-hexane does or why it’s used in my computer, but I know it doesn’t sound good. A quick Google search tells me it’s a toxic chemical illegally used sometimes for sterilizing purposes. It causes muscular degeneration and can make one go blind. Yeesh.
Read the Telegraph article about Apple’s recent admission here.
I used to be pretty involved in the anti-sweatshop movement. The vastly interconnected global economy makes this an issue that, however much we want to pretend it is, is not black and white. Yes, providing jobs to the people that need them in impoverished parts of the world is a good thing. But, as consumers in the West, it’s our duty to be conscious of the factory conditions in which our products are made in. We must always be pushing the corporations into setting and enforcing fair and just standards in these factories.
Although I’m not trying to make Apple come off as angels here—though I’ve pathetically bought into the Mac brand and lifestyle—the fact that Apple itself has uncovered and admitted to the illegal use of child labor in their factories is a big step and sets them a world apart from many other companies.
But, if there is one thing that we know about Apple, it’s that they have built much of their recent success on that brand and lifestyle, not just their products. This has arguably worked so well for them because the young, borderline hipster demographic that they owe much of their success to is utterly obsessed with image. If this progressive and relatively conscious consumer bloc’s lifestyle is connected to child sweatshops, Apple could soon find its spic and span brand in a whole lot of dirty trouble.
Bottomline: young, active consumers have an enormous amount of power at their fingertips (and not just on their iPod Touch). If they choose to use it, they could vastly improve, and possibly save, the lives of young workers across the globe.
An only-slightly-related Bonus: