The Apple Retraction

by Mark Engler

Mark Engler

For the first time in the history of the much-loved radio program This American Life, Ira Glass and his team have decided to retract a story. The story in question is performer Mike Daisey’s powerful piece on working conditions in the Chinese facilities that produce iPads and iPhones. It was entitled, “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.”

Not long after it first aired in January, I offered high praise for Daisey’s story. I was hardly the only one who had been deeply moved. The episode became the most-downloaded in This American Life’s history, and it had a big impact in shaping the subsequent discussion of Apple sweatshops.

Unfortunately, in crafting an evocative narrative, Daisey took some serious liberties with the facts. And this has resulted in a sad situation that is sure to set back the cause of pro-labor activists.

It is important to understand the nature of the retraction. The exploitative working conditions in the Chinese factories discussed in the story were genuine. Long hours, repetitive stress injuries, military-style management, suicides, exposure to toxic chemicals—none of this is disputed. In fact, these conditions have been widely reported on and verified outside of Daisey’s story, including in a prominent two-part series in the New York Times in January.

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Is There Blood on Your iPhone?

by Paul Garver

Please support the LabourStart campaign listed in the right hand column of this blog.  It demands that Foxconn, the world’s largest manufacturer of electronic products, including most of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, reform working conditions that have led to the suicides of a dozen young workers between 18 and 24 years of age at its giant factory in Shenzhen.

This tragic wave of suicides has dramatically brought attention to the disastrous human consequences of China’s export-led manufacturing boom. Some 300,000 young (internal) migrant workers work long hours on huge assembly lines and are crammed into high-rise dormitories at Foxconn’s enormous factory complex near Shenzhen. Working excessive overtime to boost their meager wages, forbidden to converse with fellow workers on the assembly line, and lacking any effective union representation, the workers have no collective channels to address their problems. SACOM (Students & Scholars against Corporate Misbehavior) has released an excellent in-depth report on conditions at Foxconn. SACOM also staged a dramatic protest at Foxconn’s headquarters in Hong Kong, while families of suicide victims grieved in Shenzhen and pro- labor groups demonstrated at the headquarters of Foxconn’s parent company in Taiwan.
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