You have probably heard by now about the explosion last week at an Ipad plant in China that killed three workers and injured several others. The cause of the explosion has been initially tied to unsafe conditions at the factory. Workers use magnesium, a highly flammable metal, and aluminum to polish the Ipad cases which releases fine dust into the air. The ventilation in the facility has been criticized and may have led to the explosion.
There have also been reports of sub-par working conditions at the factory which is run by Foxconn, a massive Taiwanese company that does work for Apple, Dell, Sony and other computer manufacturers. The facility where the explosion occurred holds over 400,000 workers.
What does any of this have to do with Catholic products?
When we explain to vendors that their great new line of Demetz Classico statues, or St. Joseph Studio statues or most children's books aren't going to be sold in our stores we always receive a combination of these answers:
- “If we didn't make the ____ in China, it would be too expensive and no one would buy it.”
- “We've been to the factory in China and the workers are treated well.”
- “Maybe the workers will be evangelized by seeing our products.”
The first answer is used most frequently and I have two thoughts on that. First, if you are willing to ignore Chinese human rights abuses in order to get a lower price, what else are you willing to ignore? Second, I know that the only reason vendors go to China is that it is easy. There are companies that will set up everything for you so you don't have to deal with the details yourself. I also know that quality products that are usually better than but at least equal to the Chinese versions can be made in other countries.
We import statues from South America that are gorgeous and considering that they are hand-painted, are a very good deal. Can you buy a two-foot statue of St. Joseph for $50? No, but you can buy a 16 inch statue of St. Joseph for $85 and know that the country that it comes from isn't forcibly killing babies and imprisoning priests and bishops without cause. If no one will buy a product because the only way to get it at a price people will pay is to have it made in an evil country, then you need a new product line.
We also carry books from Magnificat for children that are made in Canada. They cost a couple of dollars more than those from China but I doubt that the workers in Canada are living in conditions that resemble those in early-industrial England.
The second response can be easily refuted by this latest incident in China. If Apple can't keep track of safety conditions at a factory, how can you, a small importer or religious order, expect to? We've been told by one of our vendors that the owner of a factory in China asked him what country of origin stickers he wanted on his products. I have also been told repeatedly by people who have worked in China that the only time conditions get improved is when a company gets bad press. Until that happens, the factory owners will do whatever it takes to get business.
The third response is the most disturbing and is so naive that the first time I heard it I honestly thought the vendor was joking. As far as I can tell, this is just a way for a vendor to ease his conscience while increasing his profits at the expense of some exploited worker in China.
At Aquinas and More we have never and will never sell Chinese products as long as China continues its repressive and evil policies. Good Faith. Guaranteed.