Monday, 29 August 2011

Good Riddance to a Bad Apple

Back from a fantastic holiday with my family and, apart from the need to catch up on the background/extent of the UK riots, I have been trying to get my head around the many global developments in issues related to labour and workers’ rights.

One of the more eye-catching was the breathless praise poured over the sickly (quite literally) outgoing CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs.

Any trade unionist with an ear to the ground will know that Apple’s success under the reign of Jobs has rested primarily on the outsourcing of production to anywhere that Apple could quickly grow phenomenal profits at the expense of workers’ rights in a number of Asian countries, particularly China.

Our friends at SACOM ( have maintained an excellent job of uncovering the brutality of working lives at Foxconn for example and Talking Union (blog of the US DSA - are documenting well the range of contemporary grievances of thousands of Chinese workers including those of workers alleging poisoning at Wintek – see the story posted by Debby Chan on 28 Aug.

In the past Jobs has not disguised his particularly vulgar views on trade unions in the US, so it is not surprising that he would care less about workers’ rights outside of the States. On a number of occasions ( he has fallen into the typical hard-right blackhole of condemning teaching unions for alleged poor standards in schools.

The highly rated ZDNET ( was one of many electronic sources which, despite its usual support for Apple products, quickly saw through Jobs’ blather, “He's right that the ideal would be to only have great teachers, but blaming the bad teacher syndrome totally on the unions isn't going to solve the problem. Paying teachers a better wage to attract more talent (they don't get those nice back-dated stock options) and keeping the good teachers from seeking other employment because they can't afford to teach would be a good start.”

It is also worth documenting that this has all occurred against a backdrop of nascent labour organisation in Jobs’ backyard. With the news earlier this year ( that some Apple had got together to form the Apple Retail Workers Union what better way to raise two fingers up to the ailing Jobs as he exits stage left.

The union has a hesitant web presence currently with a web-site that it principally collecting contact details (www.appleretailunion) and attempting – for justifiable reasons – to gather the details of potential recruits amongst what Apple staff. A more buoyant Facebook page exists and is worth a visit not least to express solidarity.

Even The Observer yesterday had a praiseworthy piece on Jobs, which is probably the catalyst for this post. What a pity, I thought, that in examining the global growth and reach of a corporation, the media cannot ask at what price for the workers involved?

Comments, additions and questions welcome.

In Solidarity


No comments: