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It’s time for Apple to bring manufacturing back to the U.S.  2012-04-09 11:06:14

Apple has always been ahead of the curve. That’s why it should bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

OpEd graphicThe company has taken advantage of low wages and other manufacturing advantages in China for long enough. Now that attention has been focused on the working conditions at factories in China, Foxconn has pledged to raise wages and make improvements. Other suppliers will also have to meet tougher standards for workers. That’s going to raise the cost of doing business in China.

Already, labor shortages are driving up the costs of Chinese-based manufacturing facilities. Shipping costs are higher, too. Apple should bring manufacturing back to the U.S., not as a charity for American workers or as a publicity stunt, but because it makes good business sense. It is our responsibility to tell Apple this.

I realized this when I read stories about worker conditions in China, such as the Fair Labor Association’s recent report on factory conditions. We can make those problems in China go away by creating the same jobs here, under better conditions. In a conversation about Apple and Foxconn, Ira Glass of This American Life talked with New York Times writer Charles Duhigg — who wrote a groundbreaking piece on Apple’s iEconomy — about how our own desire for inexpensive Apple products is a root cause for worker abuse in China.

Duhigg said about Glass’s own feelings of guilt, “Should you feel bad about that? I don’t know, that’s for you to judge, but I think the way to pose that question is: Do you feel comfortable knowing that iPhones and iPads and, and other products could be manufactured in less harsh conditions, but that these harsh conditions exist and perpetuate because of an economy that you are supporting with your dollars?”

Glass replied, “Right. I am the direct beneficiary of those harsh conditions.” And Duhigg said, “You’re not only the direct beneficiary; you are actually one of the reasons why it exists. If you made different choices, if you demanded different conditions, if you demanded that other people be, enjoy the same work protections that you yourself enjoy, then, then those conditions would be different overseas.”

This American Life had to retract its piece because actor Mike Daisey fabricated some parts of his piece on Foxconn’s labor abuses, but those abuses have been documented elsewhere.

The choice I am making is to ask Apple to reconsider the arguments that pushed it to China, where Foxconn employs more than a million workers. There’s a growing chorus on this issue. But it’s not just something that organized labor can back. Like the cause for better education, it’s something that the Silicon Valley intelligentsia — and everyone else — can get behind.

The arguments against the U.S. have been clear for a long time, and even President Obama has had to face a lot of cold, hard facts that Apple has brought up as reasons for keeping the jobs overseas. Steve Jobs, Apple’s late CEO, told Obama that the manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back.

The list of reasons is long: American worke

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