Working Conditions Report

One ethical concern about cell phones is that in some ways they are helping to fuel deadly conflicts in Africa. This is especially true in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is a major producer of tin, gold, tungsten, and other metals important to the creation of a cell phone. According to the article “The Price of Precious,” the Congo has been in a near-constant state of war since the 1990s. Different rebel groups have seized different parts of the country. Once in control, they often force locals to work for them in the mines. The rebel groups then use the money they receive for the metals from the mines to fund their fight against the government. They often use brutal tactics, killing civilians indiscriminately, raping women, burning villages, and forcing children to become soldiers. According to the United Nations, about 5 million Congolese have died since the beginning of the conflict. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aF-sJgcoY20

Another concern is that many people who work in the factories that produce cell phones are exposed to dangerous chemicals. According to the article “How China is Screwing Over Poisoned Factory Workers,” experts say that workers often work with chemicals like benzene and flouroelastomer, which can cause serious health problems. For example, according to “The Truth Behind Your Electronics,” one worker, Long Li, became paralyzed when she was exposed to chemicals without being given proper safety gear. In addition, according to “In China, Human Costs Are Built into an iPad,” 137 workers were injured when they were exposed to a chemical used to clean iPhone screens in a factory in 2010.

In addition to problems inside factories, there are concerns about workers lives outside the factories. According to the article “Inside Foxconn,” many of the factories that make cell phones are so enormous that they become little cities. For example, Foxconn, which makes Apple products, employs more than 200,000 people. To accommodate these people, the factories construct dormitories for workers to live in. But according to “In China, Human Costs are Built into an iPad,” conditions in these dormitories are far from comfortable. In some cases, 20 people are stuffed into a 3-room apartment. Piles of garbage and rodents are common. According to one worker, Li Minqui, “Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production costs. Workers’ welfare has nothing to do with their interests.

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