One of the more topical discussions in Steve Jobs’ biography addresses Apple’s tendency to “employ” a disproportionately large number of workers in China. And that strategy has been fodder for debates on national news networks like CNN because of stubbornly high levels of unemployment in the U.S.
Let’s start with some recent statements by luminaries as politically diverse as Jim Hoffa, International Brotherhood of Teamsters President, Donald Trump, and CNN’s Piers Morgan.
Here’s what Hoffa said in a segment entitled “Fixing the Jobs Crisis” with CNN’s Candy Crowley on September 4. “Instead of investing here, everything they (Apple) do is in China…I think the president should challenge the patriotism of these American corporations.”
Piers Morgan made a similar statement this week to Donald Trump, who has been an advocate of making things in the U.S.
“More people were working for Apple in China than in America,” Morgan said when talking about Steve Jobs’ reign at Apple. Trump also had plenty to say about manufacturing things overseas, such as: “You must stop our jobs from leaving this country. We must start manufacturing our goods.”
And Apple’s response? When Steve Jobs met with President Obama in Silicon Valley he took the president to task for not making the U.S. more friendly to manufacturing, according to Walter Isaacson’s biography, “Steve Jobs.”
“The meeting actually lasted forty-five minutes, and Jobs did not hold back. ‘You’re headed for a one-term presidency,’ Jobs told Obama at the outset. To prevent that, he said, the administration needed to be a lot more business-friendly. He described how easy it was to build a factory in China, and said that it was almost impossible to do so these days in America, largely because of regulations and unnecessary costs.” (page 544)
Tough words. But would Americans work assembling iPhones at a factory like Foxconn’s? If so, would it be a profitable enterprise for Apple? Or would there be a steady stream of stories aboutworking conditions like those allegedly at Amazon’s warehouse in Allentown, Pa? (Not to mention the stories coming out of China.)
Hypotheticals aside, for now Apple has elected to make stuff in China. That said, have there been opportunities for Apple to source more components from companies that do a lot of their manufacturing in the U.S.? SRC