Normally, the launch of a new Apple device such as the iPhone 4S would make Mike Daisey salivate. But not this year.Daisey, a monologuist in the vein of Spalding Gray and a recovering “Apple fanboy,” hasn’t upgraded his phone since flying to China to investigate how those smooth, beautifully designed hand-held gizmos are made.What he found was horrific labor conditions, impossibly long hours and the use of crippling, repetitive motions. He met very young factory workers whose joints in their hands were damaged because they performed the same action thousands of times a shift.
The death of Jobs hasn’t prompted Daisey to pull any punches. While he considers the man a visionary, he also calls him a “brutal tyrant” who “failed to think different about anything.””When the design is really good, it connects to the human and actually creates empathy with the devices, so it’s really absurd how there’s no empathy between the people running the company and their own workers,” says Daisey. Jean-Michele Gregory, Daisey’s frequent director and also his wife, says her husband’s sense of betrayal is heightened by his great respect for Apple and his belief that Jobs could have fundamentally changed the lives of his workers but chose not to.
Steve Jobs, once his [Daisey’s] hero, turned his back on the workers in China who enabled him to achieve some of the highest profit margins in the tech industry. Daisey does not hold Apple alone responsible for turning a blind eye to worker exploitation; he acknowledges that many tech companies who outsource manufacturing are equally culpable. But, says Daisey, “Apple has a chance to change everything again. And they’re in the spot to do it. Because when Apple leads, everyone follows.”