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23 comments

1
nines09  Jan 29, 2012 • 9:06:43am

“But Mr President, they have no worker rights nor do we have to concern ourselves with regulations or health concerns. No clean air and water laws. No wage minimums. No Unions. No oversight. That and we walk away with a boatload of money. So what if their lives are a living hell? Care for a biscuit? ”
Welcome to the past. You don’t compete with that, you do away with it. Not much interest in that.

2
SpaceJesus  Jan 29, 2012 • 9:09:35am

“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”

3
nines09  Jan 29, 2012 • 9:39:31am

“And just because our workers occasionally have their/our factories blow up and from time to time they go to the roof and threaten to jump off…we have no obligation to anyone but our product. Not you, America or anyone outside that insulated cocoon we call Corporate.”

4
SpaceJesus  Jan 29, 2012 • 10:37:02am

re: #2 SpaceJesus

Translation: “Continue to provide this society which directly lead to our rise as a successful corporation, meanwhile, go fuck yourselves, hippies”

5
WhatEVs  Jan 29, 2012 • 10:46:41am

Foxxcon may not be unionized in China, but Walmart is. How does America compete with workers who are bused in to dorms for a week, returning to their villages on weekends, where $100 a week (or whatever) is a small fortune?

As the world races to the bottom, the American way of life will be forever altered. Unless you have higher end skills … and are young (and will take less salary), what was will never again be, not when another 3rd world nation is in the ready to work for $2.00 USD a day. Which means it will never again be as it once was in our lifetimes.

Once tge world has burned through all 3rd world cheap labor, a new cycle will begin. What that will look like is anyone’s guess.

6
Achilles Tang  Jan 29, 2012 • 11:03:50am

The above comments have validity, but working conditions and labor costs are not the fundamental issue in the article. The key point being made is flexibility and speed of reaction of businesses. Certainly some of that comes from housing workers in dormitories near workplaces, which has been done in the USA in the past for large projects, but that is only a part of the picture drawn.

7
SpaceJesus  Jan 29, 2012 • 11:29:16am

re: #6 Naso Tang

Slave-like labor and government subsidies are pretty helpful

8
Achilles Tang  Jan 29, 2012 • 12:39:21pm

re: #7 SpaceJesus

Slave-like labor and government subsidies are pretty helpful

“Slave like labor” happens in the USA too and if you read the article labor is not the key cost in most high tech products.

Government subsidies however can certainly be a significant factor. Some would call it government stimulus when successfully applied (but that is socialism/).

It has been a generation, or even two, since the USA manufactured the commonest electronic device available, invented in the US; televisions. I think it is simplistic to say that was purely a matter of “slave” labor costs.

This is not simply a matter of sweatshops.

9
Eclectic Cyborg  Jan 29, 2012 • 1:14:46pm

There may be a small glimmer of hope in that there is a growing movement to improve labor conditions in China and secure more rights for workers.

Now of course, the communist government could probably crush such a movement under their thumb, but the point is even the Chinese are starting to realize they are being taken unfair advantage of by American corporations.

I don’t know if anybody here watches “Shark tank” but there was an episode that aired awhile back featuring a guy from North Carolina whose product was a specialty truck rack. He told the Sharks (very wealthy potential investors) that he was determined to keep his entire operation, INCLUDING manufacturing, U.S. based because he wanted to help his fellow citizens.

Every one of the investors, EVERY one, declined to invest in his company for the sole reason that he refused to outsource manufacturing to drive the price point of the product down. They all told him that if he wanted his business to survive, he HAD to go overseas for the labor.

It’s sad, but true.

10
Achilles Tang  Jan 29, 2012 • 1:54:48pm

Labor conditions are a fair critique in many cases, but I find it frustrating that all the posts on this seem to miss the whole point of the article (regardless of how correct it may be).

Labor is a small portion of the product costs in question. Flexibility, efficiency and speed of action is the key factor that is talked about, and that does indeed turn into reduced costs.

Please read the whole article.

11
Eclectic Cyborg  Jan 29, 2012 • 2:10:16pm

Ok Naso,

Let me take another crack at this.

I do not believe the American economic model is one that necessarily rewards efficiency and innovation. Making money does not necessarily mean having to be the best or the quickest at what you do.

Rather it’s a function of keep your expenses as low as possible and revenues as high as possible (in other words, to maximize your profit margins), especially for publicly traded companies. The higher the profits, the higher the stock goes and the more valuable the company becomes.

The problem is that, driven by the need to essentially bring profits up consistently every THREE MONTHS, businesses tend to focus heavily on short term thinking and actions regardless of the long term cost.

For example:

- Fire experienced staff and replace them with lesser trained people who will work for less money
- Reduce and/or eliminate employment benefits, resulting in a loss of morale and productivity
- Heavily rely on temp labor and part time positions which have little job security and pay little compared to a full time position
- Layoff as many people as you possibly can and force the remainder to work incredibly hard to maintain production levels. This may work in the short term, but in the long term employees will get stressed out, burned out and fed up.
- Cut employee wages or other compensation

What I am driving at here is that a productive, efficient work force capable of adapting quickly to changes can only happen when employees are properly encouraged and motivated to do their jobs.

It’s not simply a matter of Chinese labor being cheaper, it’s that, because of the slavery like conditions of the factories, they can also be ruthlessly efficient, because their bosses will accept nothing less.

I’m not suggesting we need slave labor here in America, but I do think that a bit of goodwill by a company towards its employees goes a long way.

The place I work at now, I like it better than any place I have worked at before and a big reason why is that this company treats their employees well. The benefits are good, the pay is decent, the people are professional. It’s an environment that encourages productivity and creates employees who really are well motivated to do well at their jobs.

We need more of that. A lot more.

12
Achilles Tang  Jan 29, 2012 • 3:15:02pm

re: #11 dragonfire1981

I agree with you, but there is more to this than simply employer/employee relationships, and you say as much.

The Chinese, and others, are hungrier than we are, and think longer term in many cases (including government “subsidies”), and they are sometimes less principled when it comes to stealing from us, but to some extent that is our own fault. We make it easy for them.

I have plenty of personal anecdotes of what is wrong with US business.

A good example is when a major telephone company made a mistake, blamed me, and instead of having a single person capable of correcting the problem lost more than the issue at hand in the first two months after I cancelled my service with them, and every two months since. Talk about shooting themselves in the head..

Have you ever called or emailed “customer service” in the US and either gotten nowhere or been given a phone number to call, within their own organization, as if it was a different business? I suspect you have.

Have you ever contacted a product supplier and talked to people who aren’t interested to explore potential business with you because you are not ready to BUY NOW?

Sure there are exceptions, but I still remember a business trip to Taiwan some years ago when it appears the hotel front desk weren’t getting kickbacks for telling hookers that there was a new prospect in room 999, but by telling local businesses that a representative from a foreign manufacturer had checked in.

That was hungry for business.

13
sagehen  Jan 29, 2012 • 3:33:01pm

There’s also the matter of supply chain/shipping to customers.

Those iPhones aren’t all being sold in America — and their parts aren’t mostly made here either. Apple went to Corning for the iPad fronts, but shipping took too long so now Corning has relocated their manufacturing to be nearer where the Apple products are put together. Then shipping the finished product to retailers in Japan (half our population, but they buy as much gadgets as us), elsewhere in China (4 times our population, they don’t need anywhere near the per capita interest to be as big a market), India (more than 3 times our population), Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia — even putting whole container loads onto a train for Europe is faster than crossing an ocean.

14
nines09  Jan 29, 2012 • 3:42:56pm

re: #11 dragonfire1981


I always told this story and it came back to bite me.
In a manufacturing setting 3 people are running a line. There is no problems, quality is great and all is well. A downturn and pressure to lower cost leads to one of them being let go. Now 2 people are doing the job of 3 and because they care they do it. There is no perceptible loss and the managers who suggested this are given bonus and told they are genius’s. Time goes by and now they decide to let one of the two men on that line go, because some time motion specialist said so, and what the hell, we need to cut overhead. They let the second guy go. The one remaining guy breaks his ass because he cares and has a family, blah, blah. The management team cannot get over how smart they are. Finally, the last guy retires/quits/leaves. Now from this point on, every worker they get to run that line all on his own either quits or walks out. Do you know what the problem is, as far as the company is concerned? LAZY PEOPLE.
Take that mentality and compound it by a few million and you have what we have now.

15
Amory Blaine  Jan 29, 2012 • 5:54:50pm

re: #6 Naso Tang

The capitalist has found his very best friend, the communist regime. Totalitarian governments that will crush any worker voices about fair play and environmental concerns are the “security” the corporation is striving for and whines about at every turn. If that’s what it takes to make our economy hum, don’t you think something is broken with the corporate model? Not government regulation that protects workers and the environment?

16
Achilles Tang  Jan 29, 2012 • 6:15:32pm

re: #15 Amory Blaine

I think you are missing the point.

17
Amory Blaine  Jan 29, 2012 • 6:20:16pm

Apple earned $400,000 in profit per employee last year, reports MSNBC.

This is at least partially due to Apple nailing its global operations — Apple believes that overseas factories are more flexible and the workers are more affordable while offering more industrial skills than workers in the US.

When asked about bringing these jobs to the US, an Apple spokesman told MSNBC that “we sell iPhones in over a hundred countries. We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”

Apple’s huge $400,000 in profit per employee is more than Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil, or Google.

Read more: articles.businessinsider.com

18
freetoken  Jan 29, 2012 • 6:57:05pm

Thanks for posting this. When the NYT published this I thought it a good opportunity to put up a Page on why so much of the Clown Car exhaust on economics was just that - polluted ideas.

Or, less allegorically, the reality of American life in 2012 is that we are tightly and deeply tied into the economies of other nations, nations whose workers just get less than Americans want, desire, or can accept. This will, must, lead to an outflow of “work”. The only way to stop it is either to restrict imports through some mechanism, or force other countries to start paying their workers more. Neither is likely.

As such, Americans will continue to experience a dearth of stable, well paying jobs that we got accustomed to in the immediate post WWII decades.

19
SpaceJesus  Jan 29, 2012 • 7:53:38pm

re: #18 freetoken

The neat thing is that the middle class out-numbers the CEO’s who see all the profits from moving everything overseas.

20
SpaceJesus  Jan 29, 2012 • 7:59:16pm

re: #10 Naso Tang

You literally cannot have that kind of efficiency or flexibility without those kinds of labor conditions and that level of government support.

21
Achilles Tang  Jan 29, 2012 • 8:33:35pm

re: #20 SpaceJesus

You literally cannot have that kind of efficiency or flexibility without those kinds of labor conditions and that level of government support.

Government support can certainly help at times, which the GOP doesn’t believe but, as I read it, it is not the code words of “labor conditions” that are the issue but the cultural availability of labor at many different levels, not just menial ones to be exploited.

22
OhCrapIHaveACrushOnSarahPalin  Jan 29, 2012 • 9:18:42pm

The funniest thing to me about this latest bandwagon is, nobody yelling or indignant about it ever intends to do jobs sitting at a soldering iron all day for piecework.

Not them, or THEIR children. That’s for other Americans e_e

23
Eclectic Cyborg  Jan 30, 2012 • 5:11:40am

Actually Mason I spent 14 months working at a call center doing customer service. I hated that job, but it taught me a lot about how the agents are treated by their employers (hint: they don’t really give a shit) and the approach some major companies take with customer service (they don’t give a shit about that either). I saw ridiculous amounts of bullshit at that job.

I wonder if some of the problems with US economy can be traced to the dog eat dog mentality where all that matters is the amount of wealth and power YOU can get for yourself and screw everyone else.


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