Monday, November 23, 2015

iProblem for Apple Inc.(2012)

Apple Inc. logo
Apple, the company known worldwide for producing products such as the iMac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch has been accused of not only child labor but unfair treatment of employees as well by the China Labor Watch.
In 2012, an internal audit that had been performed found that there was 11 factories that had used child labor. Over 106 children were working for Apple, but 74 of the 106 were working for the manufacturer Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics. The children were given fake records by Shenzhen Quanshun Human Resources, a labor agency that had forced the families to sign fake identity documents ("Apple Products Made..."). Once Apple had found out about the child labor, they made the manufacturers pay expenses which included education fees for the children's families and also had turned in the labor agency to the local authorities ("Apple Products Made..."). Not only was there children working in factories, but in Indonesia there were children digging tin out in mud pits. The tin material is used to create iPhones and the children were forced to go into the pits and dig while at the risk of getting buried in landslides caused by the walls being hosed off to get rid of the mud (Edwards, Jim).
In October 2015, the company faced more allegations this time of unfair and unsafe working conditions for workers in Shanghai. The workers were paid a wage of $1.85 per hour, causing them to work excessive overtime hours. The workers were also living in dorms that had mold covering the ceilings and bed bugs all around the room, with 14 workers living in each room ("Despicable Conditions"). The Labor Watch collected some pay stubs from 76 workers and found that only 42 percent of the 76 workers had worked 60 hours or less, meaning that the rest were working excessive hours in order to make profit (Kan, Michael).

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc.
The stakeholders of the controversy are founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, CEO Tim Cooks, the employees, the children and their families, and the consumers. Tim Cooks is affected by the controversy because the company is getting bad publicity which also makes him look bad, because it makes it look like he has not attempted to fix the problems. The children and their families are tremendously affected by the controversy. The children are missing school and are not getting an education in order to put their bodies through strenuous, tiring, very long hours of work when they are not old enough to do so. The children's families are affected because they are not able to spend time with their child and they were forced to sign fake working papers to allow the children to work. The employees are greatly affected by the controversy. They are not being paid a decent wage which causes them to work excessive overtime hours, and they are working in unsafe conditions. They return to dorm rooms that are covered in mold, and have bed bugs roaming around the rooms. Each dorm room has 14 workers in it, so they are living in small, cramped up spaces.

Milton Friedman's view of Individualism is "it is the aim and responsibility of businesses to maximize their profits" (Salazar page 18). He says that businesses should only worry maximizing profits for the owner and not waste them on non-important things like employee salaries, resources, and donating to charity. An individualist would view this case as ethical. They would say Apple was ethical because they did not waste their profits on the employees or children and instead focused on maximizing the profits of the business. Unlike Friedman, Tibor Michan gives business owners more freedom, saying that owners should "determine whether they want to spend money and resources in ways that will detract from profits" (Salazar page 18). Since the owner decided to not spend too much money on worker salaries, an Individualist viewing the case through Mican's Individualism would still say that Apple is Ethical.

Child labor in China for Apple Inc.
In Utilitarianism, the only thing of value is happiness. Happiness is considered "pleasure and freedom from pain", and Utilitarians are concerned with the long-term costs and benefits of actions (Salazar page 20). A Utilitarian viewing this case would consider Apple unethical. Apple caused tons of unhappiness, starting with the child labor. Families of the children experienced a ton of unhappiness when their children were basically taken from them, and the children were equally unhappy having to go through all that strenuous and many hours of work. The employees who were being payed a very low wage and forced to live in those unsafe dorm rooms also were experiencing unhappiness. They had to work excessive hours even after overtime hours in order to make a decent living, then they would return to dorm rooms that had mold on the walls and bed bugs running around biting them while they slept.

Kantianism focuses on treating people equally and acting rationally. It follows the Formula of Humanity, which states that people should "Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never as a means" ("Kantian"...9). A Kantian would say that Apple is unethical, because they used people as a means to make profits. They used children who were to young to work to dig out tin and build iPhones, and they have not solved the complaints and problems of the low employee wages and unsafe living and working conditions. As humans, these employees deserve more than what they are receiving from the company for their duties and hard work, but the company is pretty much treating them like they are machines or tools of labor. They also lied to parents of the children and forced them to sign fake labor forms to allow the children to work for them. The workers and children are working very excessive hours, and are being treated as though they are meant to work so hard just for little reward from the company. 

Apple headquarters in Cupertino, CA
Virtue Theory
Virtue Theory was developed by Aristotle the ancient Greek philosopher, and it states that people should "Act as to embody a variety of virtuous or good character traits and so as to avoid vicious or bad character traits" (Salazar page 22). The main virtues of Virtue Theory are Courage, Honesty, Temperance, and Justice (Salazar page 23). A Virtue Theorist viewing this case would find Apple both ethical and unethical. They would find Apple ethical because in the child labor case they were honest to the public about the child labor, they had the courage to admit that child labor was taking place in the company, and they had the courage and justice to make sure that all children were returned back to their families and that the factories paid dues for the families, and it turned in the labor agency that had forged the papers into the local authorities. A Virtue Theorist would find Apple unethical in the way it is treating its employees in Shanghai however. There were complaints made before about the unsafe working conditions that workers were working in, and in 2015 they are still working in these unsafe conditions. They are only being paid $1.85 an hour, which causes them to overwork themselves in order to make more money. They are also living in dorms that house 14 workers and have bed bugs and mold covering the room.

Ethics Case Evaluation
After doing research for this case and learning about the 4 ethical theories in class during the semester, I believe that Apple still has not changed and can be considered unethical. Yes, the company solved the child labor problem and acted in an ethical way, but there is still problems going on in the company that it has seemed to ignore. For there to be complaints since 2010 about the working conditions and then for them to arise again in 2015, it means that the company has ignored the problem and did not take the time or effort to look into it and see if they could solve it. The company could at least raise the worker wages so that they do not have to work those excessive hours, and could try to find a solution for the unsafe working and living conditions. If they do not solve these problems, the company may find itself more negative publicity and may start losing customers in the near future.


"Apple Products Made with Child Labor – Internal Report." RT English. N.p., 26 Jan.
2013. Web. <>. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web.

"'Despicable' Conditions at Apple IPhone Plant in China: Report." NDTV N.p., n.d. Web. < iphone-plant-in-china-report-756156>.

Edwards, Jim. "Apple's IPhone Suppliers Use Children To Dig In Lethally Dangerous Mud Pits For Tin Ore, The BBC Alleges." Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. < apple-factory-bbc-panorama-2014-12>.

Salazar, Heather. “Kantian Business Ethics”

Salazar, Heather. “The Business Ethics Case Manual: The Authoritative Step-by-Step
Guide to Understanding and Improving the Ethics of Any Business”.

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