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The Darker Side of Apple: The Human Cost of Your iProducts

With the passing of Steve Jobs last month, there have been countless tributes to the man who created the company that changed the world. But along side all the amazingly beautiful, functional and revolutionary products Jobs created, there is a slighter darker side to Apple, which rarely makes headlines.

Mike Daisey, storyteller extraordinaire and lifelong "Machead", explores both the good and the bad surrounding Apple in his new Off Broadway play appropriately titled, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs."

The professional monologist joined The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task to talk about the show he created and currently performs in at Manhattan's Public Theater. In the accompanying video, Aaron and Daisey discuss the "agony " aspect of Apple, which focuses on the reportedly horrendous labor conditions in the Chinese manufacturing plants where some Apple products are made. (For the "ecstasy" part of this interview, see: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs: Mike Daisey Says Technology Is 'New Religion')

China's Foxconn: Workers Worked to Death

It was back in the spring of 2010 when at least 10 suicides were reported at Foxconn's manufacturing plant in Shenzhen China. Foxconn is the world's largest electronic manufacturer making product for Hewlett-Packard, Nokia and Apple's iPad.

With nearly one million employees throughout China, the suicides raised many questions about the safety and working conditions for the people working in those plants.

As research for his show, Daisey visited Foxconn—a place many journalists and Americans have never visited—and what he found surprised him beyond belief.

"What I was really shocked by was institutionalized dehumanization," he says. "The systems that are put in place are working and the objective of them working is to work people, basically, to death."

He's talking about "massive production lines" where people work "endlessly." Workers are never rotated and end up doing the same task hundreds of thousand of times. "I met many workers whose joints in their hands have disintegrated from doing that work…. [Hands] literally swollen, literally deformed [and] permanently warped," he explains.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Most Americans don't give a second thought to how our toys and gadgets are made or how they make it onto store shelves. Daisey hopes his story will open a few eyes.

But without a question, he believes Steve Jobs, knew what the conditions where on the ground at Foxconn. And the same goes today for Apple's new CEO Tim Cook. "Apple is a company that believes in micromanagement. They pay attention to details," says Daisey. "There is not question in my mind that they know what conditions are like on the ground."

As said above, Apple is not the only company to do business with Foxconn. Over the last two decades Western companies have shipped hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs overseas to not only China's Foxconn, but other manufactures in third world countries, in a hunt for cheap labor. Unfortunately in doing so, Corporate America chose to ignore its Western values and high labor standards, says Daisey.

What You Can Do

If you are at all moved by these details discussed in this interview, Daisey has a couple tips on how you can try to make a difference.

#1 — Stop upgrading your technology all the time. By doing so you'd prevent pumping money back into the electronic industry so often, which signals demand to tech companies that then rush to satisfy that demand and produce new products. On top of that, it will save you money, save the environment and lessen the human costs to make these techonologies.

#2 — Email Apple CEO Tim Cook and tell him how you feel. His email address is tcook@apple.com. But Daisey asks that you please don't abuse this email address.

Dear Apple: The Daily Ticker would like to extend an open invitation to CEO Tim Cook to appear on the show and respond to the allegations laid out in this segment.