Hershey: Innocent Children Behind Bars


Hershey’s chocolate has always been my favorite. It seems as though most of America agrees with me considering that Hershey accounts for 42.5% of the US market. Yet, inside almost every Hershey chocolate product is the bitter truth that the cocoa used to produce the chocolate may have been produced under harmful conditions, including forced labor, human trafficking, and abusive child labor.

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Since at least 2001, the Hershey Company has been aware of the problems that exist at the start o its supply chain, yet it continues to source from this region without ensuring that the labor rights abuses do not occur in the production of the cocoa it uses (anyone else thinking of Apple right now?).

One potential solution that Hershey could utilize to combat these injustices present in their supply chain is to have a reputable, independent, third-party certification that will ensure that a process is in place to identify and remediate labor rights abuses. For cocoa, the strongest certification system currently available is Fair Trade. Unlike many of its competitors, Hershey’s has not embraced certification. In fact, only one of Hershey’s chocolate bars is Fair Trade Certified.

Moreover, much of Hershey’s cocoa is sourced from West Africa, a region plagued by forced labor, human trafficking and abusive child labor (I am talking about hundreds of thousands of children here). Hershey needs to develop a system to ensure that its cocoa purchases from this region are not tainted by labor rights abuses.

Check out this one-minute clip:

 

These are just a few of the many problems that I have seen thus far in my investigation of Hershey. I look forward to exploring the company more in upcoming Paper 2.

 

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“The Narrative Doesn’t End:” Mike Daisey, Truth, Art, and a Phone Call


Almost no one calls me in my office.  90% of the calls are my wife or a textbooks ales representative (poor souls- they are ever-optimistic.).

So, when the phone rang two weeks ago, I answered it very informally.  “Unh, hello?”

“Is this Jordi?”  I didn’t have time to realize I should have recognized the voice.  “This is Mike Daisey.”

Mike Daisey Performing

Now, some of my students doubted this phone call happened.  I can assure you it did.  Maybe Mike (Mr.Daisey?  Etiquette fails me) is even reading this as he assured me he read all 64 blog posts by 32 of you over two weeks.  And 100 last semester, I presume.  I wished he would have commented for their sake, but I also understand that engaging in 164 individualized exchanges in 2 semesters is a lot to sign up for (I get paid for it!).

The highlights of the conversation.

1) He wanted me to let my students know he did read their posts.  And he liked Gil’s use of a picture of Mike to “prove’ he is a “big, fat liar.”  I think Mike was sincere in being amused.

2) He wanted me to make it clearer that he issue an apology to his audiences and other stakeholders (theater people, journalists and human rights activists, especially).  You can read it here.  The LA Times, at least. noticed it.

He writes about “loosing his grounding.”

Here is the end of it:


I speak about truth because it is what I aspire to. All my stories, even when I’ve fallen short, have been attempts to experience the truth with my audiences.

I am sorry for where I have failed. I will look closer, be more patient, and listen more clearly.

I will be humble before the work.

I think some of you wanted more of a mea culpa from him then he offered (or was included) in the “Retraction” podcast.

3) I thanked him for both the the quality and the strength of the original The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs and for making that work available under a Creative Commons license.  For those who think he may have wanted somehow to get “more fame” from TAESJ to line his pockets, you need to know that he makes no money from others performing that work.

From his website:

In a groundbreaking move, after over 200 performances in 18 cities over 19 months, a transcript version of THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS was made available for free download in February 2012, and has been released under an open license so that it may be performed by anyoneanywhereroyalty free. It was a phenomenon, downloaded more than 100,000 in its first week, and to date has had over 35 productions, and been translated into six languages.

4) He offered to send me some links to other coverage of TAESJ and his apology. Still hoping to get it! 🙂

5) We discussed how Ira Glass and the other people at This American Life made their own choices about how to handle the problems with the original podcast.  I shared that I am frustrated by the attempt to equate Daisey’s problems (lies, exaggerations, or appropriation of 3rd party material as his own experiences) with the overall truth of the issues in the play, which include of course our own love affairs with Apple technology and also the lesser known history of Apple and Jobs.

6) I explained that the tech/no performance of “un/real and un/true: The agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” was a polyvocal performance.  We added various “interruptions” to the original script to bring many different viewpoints into  the performance including other reporting about Foxconn and Apple, an interview where Steve Jobs dismisses concerns at the factories (“They have swimming pools” he says, I think), a fragment from an 19th century mill girl in America with similarities to the problems in China, a Chinese scholar’s reaction, and so on.

Do I Agree with Ira Glass?

I think part of Mike’s concern was also that the way the student posts ended with “Retraction” podcast implies that it is the end of the story.  “The narrative doesn’t end there.”  I agree with him.

There are so many other issues and changes in the overall “story” of technology (all companies!), Apple, China, globalization, capitalism, consumers, and development and justice.  I won’t outline it all here, but just this week, I heard that Foxconn was going to open up its labor unions to freer elections.  Is everything “fine” now?  I don’t think so.  Progress is not an excuse for complacency.

Mike did not say directly, but I wondered if part of his concern was that the nature of the assignment (from his viewpoint, reading these blog posts) was that perhaps I sided completely with Ira Glass and the TAL producers.

Here is the short answer: no.

I was one of the people who worked hard to see the play still performed here last fall when there were understandable concerns about having it all (especially after dealing with Greg Mortensen).  But full credit to Pete Mackey, our VP of communications, who imagined that the original monologue AND the controversy around its truths and lies could be performed in a way that acknowledged it all.  Technology, justice, globalization, China, Apple in an engaging play AND the issues of truth, art, knowledge, and journalism all in one moment!  Yes, please!

Here is the longer answer:

Me, Teaching, Truth, and Social Construction

Look, when I teach, I try to be careful to leave plenty of “space” for student voices to come forth and express themselves.  I balance this with some healthy amounts of my challenging or engaging a student to develop their ideas more in speech and writing, to go deeper, to be more sophisticated, and to ask hard questions.  Sometimes, I reveal what I “really think” if I think it will provide new insight or will model a way of thinking.  Maybe I am too careful not to make my views clear.  Maybe I reveal too much of what I think.  Bucknell students like to know the right answer.  This is an ethics class after all.  Maybe I should be arguing for what is clearly ethical or unethical.

So maybe Mike thought, based on how I structure the blog posts, that I fully agree with “Retraction.”  Understandable.  But I do not.  My choices for how I structure the materials and assignments are about creating student experiences.

To have the full impact of the first podcast, followed by the impact of the retraction, followed by having to make one’s own decisions about what matters, about what is right or wrong in facts and in ethics, followed by having to grapple with who controls the narrative, followed by some uneasy reconciliation with this whole nexus of issues is a series of I think irreplaceable learning moments.

But I believe truth is situational and contextual.  This was the origin of the other poll question that many of you answered.   I am a dyed-in-the-wool social constructivist meaning that what we usually call “facts” are never universal and always have a history.  All knowledge is socially constructed.  This can perhaps make me seem like a naive relativist to some.  The Opus Dei priest who was an ethics teacher for one higher education class certainly thought so and so failed me on an ethics exam.  But I argued then and now that social constructionism does not mean “anything goes.”  Knowledge and facts still must meet criteria of accuracy or worthiness before they are accepted by that knowledge community.  The knowledge AND the criteria are themselves always a result of a social process of interested actors.  There is no position from which to step outside of our constructed existence and objectively measure facts as “true”or not.   But criteria and knowledge is the best we can do.  And we should always try to make them better, whatever our field is.

One result of this approach to epistemology is an inherent pluralism in knowledge.  Since there are many kinds of knowledge and many sets of criteria, what is good knowledge in one area may or may not be in another.  How we judge “correct” literary theory is different from “correct” civil engineering from “correct” sociology.

So did Mike lie in parts of his monologue?  Die he make mistakes or exaggerations  (yes, yes).  But did he LIE where lying is a deliberate act of  deception?  By the standards of journalism, yes.  By the standards of theater, no.  By the standards of utilitarianism, no if the amount of visibility raised far outweigh the cost of the lies.  By the standards of a social movement to humanize the global economy, no.

Is there an easy answer to the question? No.

“Life is Meaningless”


As we all know, Foxconn manufactures more than 40 percent of the world’s electronics for companies such as Apple, Dell, and Amazon. Moreover, they are China’s largest and most prominent private employer, with 1.2 million workers. Controlled by Terry Gou, Foxconn has become a symbol of the struggle to improve conditions for workers. In recent years, Foxconn was put in the spotlight on this issue, and pledged to decrease working hours and increase wages. I decided that I wanted to look further into this company and see what they are up to now.

As a result of all of the negative press, progress is finally being made. The working conditions are in fact changing (forbes.com), but are they changing for the better? Foxconn has indeed scaled back on the number or workers they hire, and it now is shifting instead to increasing their productivity through robotics. Liu Kon, a spokesman for Foxconn, said in a China Daily story published two weeks ago that “the company had been on a steady course for a while to replace manpower with robotic systems.” However, there have still been scandals remerging from the company. As recent as 2012, Foxconn admitted to hiring underage workers.

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A Foxconn worker was quoted saying, “Life is meaningless.” I think that when people read articles about the poor labor conditions, it is hard for them to comprehend and imagine the words. We often forget that these workers are individuals, with their own lives, problems and dreams. Imagine that these workers were your family members, not just thousands of people that you will never know. What if your family members were making these products and being treated so poorly? Would you use products manufactured at Foxconn if that was the case?

Companies such as Apple use Foxconn because it is one of the few that can meet their production requirements and churn out millions of devices each month. If they abandon their partnership with Foxconn, then that means fewer products. Apple has taken few steps to improve the conditions at Foxconn. They hired internal agents within the FLA to conduct audits of their supplier factories. These agents came up with plans that they believed would be helpful in correcting the issues within the Chinese factories where these Apple products are made. However, it does not seem that these investigations helped much at all, considering all of the negative press still coming out concerning Foxconn. Finally, The New York Times also reported that although Foxconn did not reveal how much they would raise wages, they did make a commitment that by July of 2013, no worker will labor for more than 49 hours per week. Foxconn has also promised that despite cutting hours, employees’ pay will not be reduced. I guess we will just have to wait and see if Foxconn actually keeps their promise. What do you all think? Will they keep their promises?

Tim vs Steve


Tim v. Steve

 Until Steve Jobs’ death in late 2011, Apple had always employed a policy of secrecy when it came to what information, about the company, they released into the outside world.  This policy was pioneered by Jobs, and was a cornerstone of company policy during his time as CEO.  Jobs thought that if they kept all of the details of their business model successfully hidden, then they could continue to stay ahead of the competition.  The problem is that we live in the 21st century and that is not how stakeholders like to see businesses run.  In a time that has seen the downfall of major corporate powerhouses like Enron and Lehman Brothers, the public has grown weary of what a businesses’ true intent actually is. 

            While I understand the theory behind Jobs’ policy, and agree that keeping R&D under a veil of secrecy is important, I still believe that businesses should be required to release statistical information about their business practices.  We need a way to keep these companies honest and progressive.  While gains are definitely being made on that front in terms of enacting more legislation, we have not seen a huge change in the situation within the past 10 years. So, while I agree that Jobs was probably the most innovative person of his time, he did not do much to show the public that Apple was a socially responsible. 

Apple_logo_Think_Different

            So where is the company today?  Well for one thing they have a brand new CEO, Tim Cook.  Tim Cook replaced Jobs after Jobs passed away from pancreatic cancer in late 2011.  Most Apple followers were terrified what this would mean for the company’s future, seeing as it was Jobs’ innovative vision that had brought the company so much success.

So what about this Tim Cook, what is he doing for Apple?  Since Cook took the position as CEO he has already started a renovation of the company’s image. Cook, having worked as Apple’s COO before becoming CEO, was well aware of the company’s previous policy of secrecy and agreed the company needed an image makeover.

            Cook has began this process by reviewing the way that the company treats its employees.  Cook realized that they needed to be able to attract the best young minds in their fields in order to remain competitive and innovative.  An attractive working environment will not only incentivize employees to want work for the company, but it also helps retain employees, which promotes productivity.  This effort to address and take steps to make Apple a better place to work shows that Apple cares about their employees and is taking efforts to improve this relationship. 

            Another stakeholder Cook has reached out would be the community at large.  Under Jobs’ reign Apple “didn’t do charity”.  Jobs believed that, that money would be better spent on R&D.  Well guess what?  The public cares are community service, and admires corporations that work with charities.  Cook saw this weakness as an opportunity to improve and recently announced that they will now be participating in a charity-matching program.  What this means is that Apple will now match, dollar for dollar, employee donations of up to $10,000 per year.  For a company that “didn’t do charity”, this seems like a pretty positive step in the right direction. 

            Cook has also addressed the issues with their suppliers overseas.  Cook was actually the individual that was sent over to China to inspect their supplier’s factories when the controversy arose.  Cook was not pleased with what he saw and hired a nonprofit auditing organization, the Fair Labor Association, to conduct regular audits of the company’s supplier’s factories.  However, according to recent reports it does not appear that too much has changed on this front.  There are still numerous violations found during every single audit.  While, I understand that Apple does not have much authority over these matters because they do not directly control these factories, they do have a certain amount of influence over the people that do.  In the future, Apple needs to take a stronger stance against supplier violations.  They need to make it clear to these companies that inhuman behavior is unacceptable. 

            Overall, Apple appears to be moving in a positive direction under new CEO, Tim Cook, but there is still room for improvement.  Cook definitely needs to do more to make sure that their Code of Ethics are actually being enforced in supplier factories, and perhaps even enforce harsher punishments for violators.  I am usually not an advocate of using “punishment” as a solution, but because what these companies are doing is unethical and inhumane they need to realize that there are consequences for treating their employees poorly. 

 

Sources:

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2012/09/14/corporate-responsibility-spotlight-apple/

http://www.imd.org/research/challenges/corporate-social-responsability-apple-opportunity-rosa-chun.cfm

http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/04/tech/innovation/apple-tim-cook

 

Pictures:

http://blog.laptopmag.com/tim-cook-vs-steve-jobs-new-ceo-acts-like-a-leader-but-wheres-the-magic

 

Believe nothing that you hear, and half of what you see.


 

A teacher in high school once told me, “Believe nothing that you hear, and half of what you see.” Although this is an extraordinarily cynical way to go about life, I feel it’s an important rule of thumb. I think the first word I would use to describe Mike Daisey’s account of Apple would not be “falsified” but “sensationalized”. Daisey pads his somewhat true story with untrue happenings not in order to mislead people but in an effort to sensationalize his story for people. These added happenings certainly have this effect; they make his story far more interesting and his points far more conveying. To make an analogy out of this, Daisy sensationalizing a supposedly true spoken-word story would be like a professional athlete taking performance-enhancing drugs. His story remains in our mind but it’s looked back upon with a hint of skepticism. There was a certain amount of cheating going on behind his story.

In the film Scarface, Tony Montana says, “All I have in this world is my balls and my word, and I don’t break them for no one.” Montana is surprisingly poignant with this statement; all anyone has in this world are their balls and their word (so to speak), and they’re each very difficult to fix if broken. This little catchphrase of Montana’s applies especially to Daisey and those of his profession. Daisey’s career as a spoken-word artist who speaks about his own opinions and experiences is entirely dependent on whether or not his audience can trust him. The slow, inviting delivery of his material would lead one to believe Daisey is aware of how much weighs on his audience’s ability to buy into what he’s saying.  Perhaps after such a storied career Daisey thought that he had gained enough trust from the general public to pad his story with a fair amount of sensationalism. Unfortunately, Daisey failed to realize that having a storied career, and having gained the trust of his audience means nothing if he breaks the latter of the two things he has in this world.

At the end of the day, Daisey lied. He presented sensationalized truths to an impressionable audience. In the United States court of law one swears before testimony to deliver “nothing but the truth.” I wonder if Apple considered suing Daisey for slander. Daisey never gave any impression that his story was falsified in any sense, and although this may have taken away from the effect to the audience it is lying and cheating to do otherwise. Daisey’s journalistic venture into China embodied the yellow journalism of the 1920s. Daisey, as Tony Montana would say, “broke his word” with his piece on Apple. The end result of Daisey’s hurt credibility is fair more relevant than toiling over what of his piece was truth and what was lies.