By Eric Nakano, Staff Editor
In moving its iPhone production overseas to China, Apple executives cited not just the lower costs of production but also the flexibility Chinese factories provide. One Apple executive recalled how Apple’s redesign of its iPhone screen forced a revamp of the phone’s production. The new screens arrived at the factory around midnight and the factory got its workers out of bed to work a 12 hour shift in order to ensure timely delivery of the new phones. From a customer service and bottom line perspective, having this kind of flexibility enables companies to stay a step ahead of the competition and meet demand for their products in a fiercely competitive global economy.
But is rousing a low wage factory worker out of bed after a full day’s work so that a consumer can get delivery of his iPhone on time ethically right? What does this mean for factories around the world? Must they impose similar burdens on their employees in order to remain “competitive”? Should international standards be developed to prevent a race to the bottom? Are these questions being discussed in the ethics courses of our nation’s business schools and debated in the board rooms of Fortune 500 companies? As wealth and income inequality widen, they should be.