August 27, 2010 / 11:56 AM / 10 years ago

A monologue to make Apple mend its manufacturing ways

MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - A master storyteller and self-confessed Apple fan hardly makes for a compelling advocate for social change.

A worker walks out of a factory building with the nets, installed to prevent workers from jumping to their deaths, at a Foxconn factory, in Langfang, Hebei Province August 3, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Lee

But Mike Daisey, whose new monologue focuses on what he calls the dark side of Apple’s iconic gadgets, hopes he can pressure Chief Executive Steve Jobs to push for better labor conditions at factories in China, where most Apple gadgets are assembled.

The two-hour monologue entitled “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” is part paean and part critique of Apple Inc, and Jobs, a pancreatic cancer survivor and founder of the iconic company that wields enormous clout in the tech world.

Dressed in black — in a nod to Jobs’ trademark black turtleneck and jeans — the stocky Daisey sat in the spotlight at a desk on an otherwise bare stage in Mumbai this week, gesticulating through his expletive-ridden monologue, barely pausing to sip water from a glass or wipe sweat off his face.

Daisey, acclaimed for his monologues including ‘Great Men of Genius’ and ‘21 Dog Years’, posed as an American businessman to check out Foxconn Technology in Shenzhen that came under international scrutiny after a spate of worker suicides.

Critics have blamed the suicides on stressful working conditions at the factory that employs nearly 800,000 workers.

Daisey’s monologue, which is part-autobiography and part-journalism, is both hilarious and heartbreaking, as he admits his own obsession with Apple gadgets such as the wildly successful iPad and the iPhone, while also criticizing a work environment he says has been forced by globalization.

“We, as Apple fans and the West are complicit in this tough work environment. We are every bit as responsible, let’s not kid ourselves,” he said.

Jobs is not an unreasonable or uncaring man, Daisey said, noting how he has transformed Apple into one of the “greenest” tech companies from being one of the “dirtiest,” and so can be persuaded to push for change at the factories in Shenzhen.

Jobs has said he found the worker deaths “troubling,” but insisted the Foxconn factory is not a sweatshop.

“The sweep of globalization means that these factories will be soon set up in India — some of them are already here — and you need to be aware that there is this other side to the fantastic, shiny gadgets we all so love,” Daisey said.

Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Miral Fahmy

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