The discussion around where our clothes come from is a popular one. People are beginning to understand and prioritize ethically made clothing. But what about when it comes to technology? Well, to start, we don’t buy as many phones and laptops as we do t-shirts and pants, and we don’t have as many options when it comes to buying them. However, that doesn’t mean giant tech companies should get off scot-free for using sweatshops for their production. 

Apple and Samsung are the two most popular smartphone brands in the world, but their factories are anything but smart. Here’s what you need to know about how your Samsung and Apple technology is made. 

Samsung Sweatshops 

In 2017, a report on a large Samsung factory in Vietnam exposed the company for treating its mostly female employees terribly. The women dealt with neurological and reproductive problems and suffered severe health issues linked to exposure and overwork. The raw materials required to make fancy smartphones are literally taking lives. Miscarriages are incredibly common and often expected. The endless hours of standing, exposure to toxic materials, and physically and emotionally draining work have meant that many women have suffered miscarriages. 

A South Korean Samsung factory was no better. Like other smartphone factories, workers suffered from leukemia, lupus, lymphoma, and multiple sclerosis. There have been over 200 documented cases of terminal illness in Samsung factory workers. South Korean authorities have helped the factories cover up the deadly issues related to exposure at Samsung chip and display factories. This has stopped sick employees from receiving the compensation they deserve. A supreme court ruling denied any financial compensation to Samsung plant worker Lee Yoon-Jung’s family. She died at 32 from a brain tumor. 

Apple Sweatshops 

 

We can’t talk about Apple without mentioning Foxconn, which manufactures a lot of its technology. At one point, Foxconn’s 1.4 square-mile flagship plant in Longhua employed about 450,000 workers. In 2010, assembly-line workers began killing themselves. The factory had 18 reported suicide attempts and 14 documented deaths that year alone. One worker confided that “It wouldn’t be Foxconn without people dying. Every year people kill themselves. They take it as a normal thing.” 

When it came to how workers felt about being there, he said, “They call Foxconn a fox trap because it tricks a lot of people.” They were originally promised free housing, but once they moved in, they were charged extremely high rates for electricity and water. The dorms sleep eight, although there was a time when they used to sleep twelve. 

Workers at Foxconn will be fined if they try to quit before the first three months. They are trapped in an environment that does not care enough about them to treat them right but will not let them leave, either. 

We think of Apple as the modern, sleek tech brand. When we get a new iPhone, everything about it seems perfect. After all, we’ve paid enough money for it to be as close to perfection as possible. In reality, 1,700 iPhones pass through a single assembly-line worker’s hands every day. That same worker then goes to sleep in an overcrowded dorm and regularly has co-workers commit suicide around her. Nothing about that is modern or impressive. 

These Are Not Isolated Instances 

Samsung and Apple are not special. Google has been accused of wage theft and called a “white-collar sweatshop”. Microsoft, Sony, Nokia, and several other tech companies have been accused of using forced labor camps in China. Whenever a piece comes out about one of these tech giants using sweatshops, they release a statement expressing their concern and that they’re launching an investigation. As far as we can tell, nothing has changed. When will giant corporations stop encouraging and inflicting suffering on laborers? And who’s going to hold them legally responsible for these lives? 

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