You hear about it all the time: American corporations pay a few cents an hour to Chinese laborers to make the products we buy every day. We hate it on principle, but we still buy the products because we don’t have a comparable alternative. Sure, there’s the Fair Trade movement, and we could switch to using those products, but we’re stuck in our ways and don’t want to spend all that effort to research and find similar products from more socially responsible sources.

Now picture this: You’re on the Apple website, about to complete your purchase of this awesome brand-new computer, and you’re given two options.

Apple operates two Chinese manufacturing plants for this computer. At one, we pay our workers fifty cents per hour. At the other, we pay our employees eight dollars and twenty-five cents per hour. You have two options: (a) cheap labor, or (b) human decency [Add $150.00].

Which do you choose? Now it’s not a question of how much time it takes you to find and research comparable products; all you have to do is click a button and spend $150 more for exactly the same product. But you’re a conscientious consumer; you don’t personally gain any additional value from those $150 other than knowing that you’ve helped to financially support someone you’ve never met. If you don’t, they won’t be able to work as many hours and they might lose their job. On the other hand, as far as you’re concerned, you’re basically throwing $150 out the window.

From Apple’s perspective, this is great PR. The goal is to get everybody to opt for the more expensive choice and stop exploiting laborers once and for all, but in the mean time, they’re letting people choose to do it themselves. Sure, they might not make any additional money from doing this, but at least Steve Jobs can stand up on stage at WWDC next year and announce that manufacturing employees’ wages have gone up 5000% in the past year, and possibly show a video of a happy Chinese family eating rice and beans for dinner.

By the way, I mean this as an idea for any company using cheap overseas labor, not just Apple. It turned out to focus on one company just because it was easier to write it that way. Well, that, and I really wanted to use Apple’s beautiful checkout form for the image.

Also, sorry about the terrible quality of the image; I used since I’m on my CR-48 and it certainly left some features to be desired. Like, say, non-JPEG image format support.

One thought on “Cheap Labor vs. Living Wages: Let Consumers Decide

  1. MH says:

    This is great! I like the photoshop.

    I was thinking. We once outlawed slavery. So slavery is wrong because: 1. Denies people freedom.
    But also? 2. Denies them the value of their work?

    I wonder if people these days are being denied the value of their work. Maybe…. more likely we just dont have enough valuable work to go around?

    But maybe this can become a similar movement to the anti slavery movement. 1. Freedom is a right. and also 2. Having valuable work is a right?

    Oh ho I like that one. Everyone has a right to valuable work!

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