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Consumers should be more aware of product origins

This week, Apple was criticized for the poor working conditions in the Chinese factories that manufacture its products.

Charles Duhigg and David Barboza of The New York Times reported that employees at Apple’s manufacturing partner, Foxconn, undergo 12-hour shifts in horrible conditions. An aluminum dust buildup resulted in an explosion in an iPad production facility in May 2011. This in turn resulted in two immediate deaths and dozens of injuries. After threats of mass suicides due to working conditions, nets were installed to catch employees attempting to jump to their deaths.

News of such conditions shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise, given that this isn’t the first time Foxconn has been investigated on charges of abuse.

Although Apple CEO Tim Cook recently delivered an internal statement to Apple’s employees stating that the company “will not... stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain,” the problems are more widespread than one company can fix.

Foxconn and similar companies support hundreds of American corporations every day, such as Apple, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard.

We should take monetary power in our hands as consumers and investors and pull support from companies that enable this kind of abuse. At a time when Americans have stepped up to the plate against Stop Online Piracy Act, pulling financial support from companies that favored the bill, we consumers should learn that we are not powerless to instigate change with our wallets.

Suggesting we all stop buying Apple products is unrealistic. But what if we could learn to value things differently instead?

If the real worth of an item were not just a sleek design and a fast processor, but also an ethical manufacturing process, if we made it fashionable to be mindful of a product’s origins, then we could see a real difference.