That's telling, to me. That statement drives home the fact that Foxconn's policies and salaries are at worst in keeping with the norms in China. Sure, none of us here in the U.S. would want to work in a tedious factory job for $2 an hour. I'm not saying the Foxconn employees should rejoice in their good fortune, but when you look at their costs of living--they pay 70 cents per meal in the Foxconn cafeteria, and $17.50 per month for their room and board in the Foxconn dorm--the salary seems far less shocking.
So yes, I thought things could look a lot worse inside Foxconn. And there are no easy answers about what could be done better. If Apple decided to bring its manufacturing stateside instead, costs for its products would, of course, skyrocket. And many thousands of Chinese workers would, let's remember, lose their jobs.
If Apple took Weir up on his offer and doubled Foxconn factory worker salaries out of its own pocket, leaving prices static and shouldering the impact to its profit, that would be nice, right? Perhaps less so to Apple's shareholders, but still--Apple can probably afford to double Foxconn employee salaries while remaining hugely profitable; it needs to spend about $2 per hour per day per Foxconn employee.
But is that the right move? I'm not sure what impact such a move would have on the Foxconn employees who work on Dell or Sony or Acer or Amazon products. And I'm not sure it teaches the right values to Foxconn's management team, either.
While I recognize my own conclusion may be unpopular, here it is: I'm not convinced that Apple needs to right a wrong here. Again, it seems like Foxconn's existing salaries are competitive, and it's clear that the company's jobs are coveted.
I eagerly await the FLA's report from inside Foxconn, and I'm confident if problems are found, Apple will work to fix them. But I was pleasantly surprised by how bland life inside Foxconn appears. I was expecting a sweatshop staffed with employees leading miserable lives. But Nightline's report left me feeling that while I wouldn't want a job at Foxconn, many in China are happy to work there. Seeing that, coupled with my confidence that Apple really will aim to make what improvements it can, makes me feel comfortable using my MacBook Pro without feeling ashamed.
Lex Friedman is a Macworld staff writer.