The Gap (Inc.) in Utilitarian Thinking

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Child labor seems to be an ever-existing problem. We hear of it in the news constantly and while the issue has been slowly decreasing, there is no sign of its eradication in the near future. One industry that seems to have the majority of issues is the textile and retail industries with massive amounts of outsourced production in third world countries. One such company is Gap, Inc. (Gap), which has been a popular source of casual and business clothing throughout the world, which, in addition to the Gap also includes branches like Old Navy and Banana Republic.   In 2007, Gap was accused of using child labor in their Indian factories and while it seemed clear that is was a misunderstanding and was strictly being addressed, it was not the first time Gap had been faced with children working on their clothing overseas.  Fortunately, we see that Gap realized their past mistakes in dealing with child labor and had put in place a new management style addressing such issues. The following review will provide a look into the story behind Gap’s influences and decisions, as well as analyze the ethical dilemmas that required redress. Continue reading

Response to “Retraction”

My first reaction to “Retraction” was frustration because I couldn’t believe that I listened to Mike Daisey’s entire monologue without even thinking if he could be lying or not. I assumed that since he was talking about his personal experiences that the things he was saying were true. Now, after discovering the numerous lies Daisey told, I realize that I shouldn’t be surprised. Daisey’s monologue was not journalism; it was purely his attempt of being entertaining. In this case, it seems as though Daisey is nothing more than an actor since so much of his story was found out to be false.

At one point in “Retraction,” Daisey apologizes. In my opinion, he also owes an apology to Apple. Although we know that there are poor working conditions at factories that produce Apple products, the content in Daisey’s monologue was clearly exaggerated. With a high volume of listeners, I would assume that many of these listeners had a worsened image of Apple as a company after hearing Daisey’s story. This effect isn’t fair to Apple, considering many of the issues presented were exaggerated or made up altogether. This makes me wonder if Daisey had other motives besides just trying to put on a show and be entertaining.

It was disturbing for me to hear how many of the ideas presented were actually lies. I don’t understand why Daisey felt the need to tell a completely different story compared to what he actually experienced. When asked questions about his lies, he took a while to answer and when he finally answered, he didn’t seem confident in what he was saying. Could he have lied in that interview as well? Although he admits to his lies, he still tries to explain himself and stand behind his story. In my eyes, Daisey lost all credibility and nothing he says should be trusted. People tend to believe others who are talking about personal experiences, but it is probably wise to look out for people who might have other motives and could be lying or exaggerating the truth.

Daisy on Foxconn

I found that Mike Daisy’s recount of the conditions of the Foxconn plant to be very graphic and disturbing.  However, I do not think that this is the fault of Apple, but rather Foxconn and the totalitarian regime of China.  The reason that the majority of U.S. products are manufactured in China is because the cost is so much cheaper than in the United States.  Unfortunately, this cheap labor breeds awful working conditions.  The Chinese government does not enforce labor standards, allowing for underage workers, harsh conditions, extended hours, and low wages.  Foxconn operates on the basis of many Chinese companies that people are expendable and like parts of a machine.

Apple, on the other hand, has done nothing wrong.  It periodically checks the plants for stable working conditions and—at least on the surface—investigates any labor issues that occur.  Daisy even recounted that Foxconn knew when the plants were being audited and would adjust their standards accordingly.  But the real point—though a controversial one—is that Apple needs the low cost labor of Foxconn to exist in the first place.  If Foxconn increased wages and benefits to the levels that Americans enjoy, Apple would cease to exist, as the average wage in China is $2.00 compared to the average wage in the U.S. of $34.75 (this would be an additional $25 billion per year in costs and Apple makes roughly $14 billion) 1.

While the conditions in China are terrible, we cannot blame Apple for producing its products there to stay in business (focusing on the design of their products that consumers love so much).  It is the role of the Chinese government to enact and enforce laws that help the people gain better working conditions, as companies like Foxconn are designed to minimize costs at all costs.  However, as we have seen before from the communist China (i.e. sending a 14-year old to the Olympics in 2000), the government only views its citizens as tools to serve the state.


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