As Apple faces increased scrutiny for hiring foreign firms to manufacture its products overseas, CEO Tim Cook says that the U.S.-based company is looking to bring more jobs back home.
In an interview on "Rock Center with Brian Williams" on Thursday, December 6, Cook said that a line of Apple's Mac computers will be manufactured in the U.S. in 2013. He did not say which line would be made in America, nor did he address recent reports that customers had spotted new iMac computers with the words "Assembled in USA", instead of "Assembled in China," printed on the devices.
The announcement was made as Cook and Williams sat and chatted about the company's products. When Williams asked Cook why Apple isn't a made-in-America company, Cook replied thus:
You know, this iPhone, as a matter of fact; the engine in here is made in America. And not only are the engines in here made in America, but engines are made in America and are exported. The glass on this phone is made in Kentucky. And we've been working for years on doing more and more in the United States. Next year, we will do one of our existing Mac lines in the United States.
Williams also asked Cook how bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. from China would affect the price tags attached to devices like Macs, iPhones and iPads. "Honestly," Cook said to Williams, "It's not so much about price, it's about the skills, et cetera. Over time, there are skills that are associated with manufacturing that have left the U.S. Not necessarily people, but the education system stopped producing them."
(Watch the video above for a preview of Tim Cook on "Rock Center with Brian Williams," which will air on in full on NBC, Thursday, December 6, at 10 p.m. ET.)
During an lengthy interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, which hit stands on Friday, Cook reiterated his plans to hire manufacturing partners in the U.S. to work on the domestically made Macs.
"We could have quickly maybe done just assembly, but it's broader because we wanted to do something more substantial," Cook told Bloomberg. "So we'll literally invest over $100 million. This doesn't mean that Apple will do it ourselves, but we'll be working with people, and we'll be investing our money."
"[W]e have a responsibility to create jobs," Cook also said, per Bloomberg. "I don’t think we have a responsibility to create a certain kind of job, but I think we do have a responsibility to create jobs [...] Over 60 percent of our sales are outside the United States. So we have a responsibility to others as well. But this is our home market, and I take all of those very seriously—jobs, education, giving back, the environment."
Most of Apple's manufacturing is completed by hands in China, where wages are far lower than in the U.S. Even President Barack Obama has said that many of these jobs will remain on foreign soil. "[T]here are some jobs that are not going to come back, because they're low-wage, low-skill jobs," Obama said during a pre-election debate against Republican challenger Mitt Romney in October.
CNN Money points out that the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, whom Tim Cook replaced as CEO in 2011, stated the same belief expressed by the president. CNN Money highlights a passage from Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs that touches on an exchange between Jobs and Obama that took place during a dinner with Silicon Valley elites, hosted by the president in Washington:
Apple had 700,000 factory workers employed in China, [Jobs] said, and that was because it needed 30,000 engineers on-site to support those workers. "You can't find that many in America to hire," he said. These factory engineers did not have to be PhDs or geniuses; they simply needed to have basic engineering skills for manufacturing. Tech schools, community colleges, or trade schools could train them. "If you could educate these engineers," he said, "we could move more manufacturing plants here." (Steve Jobs, p. 546).
The Cupertino-based Apple in recent months has taken steps to respond to intense criticism from customers and activists over the treatment of workers in its global supply chain, particularly at massive industrial mini-cities operated by manufacturing giant Foxconn. A small team of independent investigators from the non-profit Fair Labor Association were hired by Apple earlier this year to inspect conditions at three China-based Foxconn plants; the probe turned up a number of "serious and pressing" abuses of Chinese labor laws. Apple ordered the audits after a string of worker suicides at one of Foxconn's Shenzhen plants, an explosion at a Foxcon plant in Chengdu, and a spate of reports about unsafe working conditions and improper labor practices emerged from assembly lines where workers assemble iPhones, iPads and iPods.
This post has been updated.
Also on HuffPost:
On February 21, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/22/nightline-apple-supplier-foxconn_n_1293393.html?ref=technology" target="_hplink">ABC aired a "Nightline" segment featuring Bill Weir's visit to a Chinese Foxconn factory</a> responsible for making some of Apple's popular devices. During a tour of the factory, Weir says he "expected more robots" but in fact most of the gadgets at Foxconn are made the old-fashioned way: The high tech parts are put together by hand. For example, iPhones are assembled by hand in 141 steps. One iPad takes five days to assemble and passes through 325 sets of hands.
Two shifts of workers toiling in 12 hour shifts can make 300,000 iPad camera modules in one day, not to mention shape sleek iPads out of "raw hunk[s] of aluminum" at a rate of 10,000 per hour. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>
7 To A Room
Many workers live at the factory, where they pay $17.50 per month to live 7 to a room in Foxconn dormitories. <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/connieguglielmo/2012/02/22/nightline-goes-inside-apple-factories-in-china/" target="_hplink">The average starting salary is $285 per month,</a> and workers must pay for their food. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>
No Free Lunch
Workers get two hour-long meal breaks during each 12-hour shift. They eat together in a cafeteria where they pay $.70 a meal. This is about a quarter of their hourly wage. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>
Tim Cook Investigated Suicides
In 2010, after a spate of suicides at Foxconn's Shenzen plant, then COO Tim Cook flew to China to investigate the matter. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">According to Nightline,</a> Cook put together a team of psychiatric experts to examine the issue. It was at that team's suggestion that the infamous nets were installed between the buildings to prevent suicides. There have been 18 worker suicides at Foxconn since 2010. <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/15/us-china-apple-idUSTRE81E1FQ20120215" target="_hplink">According to Reuters' interview with Fair Labor Association president Auret van Heerden, the group's initial findings from its audit of Foxconn</a> suggested that the suicides could have been "a function of monotony, of boredom, of alienation perhaps."
Weir said he was surprised to see how young the workers were. He said many were in their late teens and no one looked like they could be over 30. Many had left their hometowns, oftentimes in the countryside, in order to get jobs at Foxconn. Weir also toured Chengdu and spoke with the relatives of workers who had left for jobs at Foxconn. According to Cult of Mac, <a href="http://www.cultofmac.com/147878/foxconn-employees-say-underage-workers-were-hidden-before-fla-inspection/" target="_hplink">Foxconn may have hidden underage employees</a> when the Fair Labor Association conducted its inspections. While Apple allows for workers as young as sixteen to assemble their products, those eighteen and under are afforded "special protections," <a href="http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/12/02/22/factory_workers_claim_foxconn_hid_under_age_employees_before_fla_inspection.html" target="_hplink">according to Apple Insider.</a> These include not being allowed to perform some tasks and working shorter hours than older workers.
Foxconn Exec Wants To Pay More
When asked how Foxconn would react if Apple suggested doubling workers' pay, Foxconn executive Louis Woo told Weir that the company would welcome a raise for employees. "Why not?" Woo said. "That would be good for the employees and also definitely good for China and good for us."
Workers have to wear static-proof jackets and take "air showers" to make sure the work area remains dust-free. Even one spec of dust could prove ruinous to the iGadgets' delicate innards. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/watch/nightline/SH5584743/VD55173552/nightline-221-apples-chinese-factories-exclusive" target="_hplink">Image via Nightline</a>
WATCH A CLIP FROM THE NIGHTLINE SEGMENT