Morning Must Reads: Compare and Contrast: Executives and Teachers

The New York Times this morning has yet another story that is sure to dominate public conversation over the next week or so. Read it or else!

In the last decade, Apple has become one of the mightiest, richest and most successful companies in the world, in part by mastering global manufacturing. Apple and its high-technology peers — as well as dozens of other American industries — have achieved a pace of innovation nearly unmatched in modern history.

However, the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

“You can either manufacture in comfortable, worker-friendly factories, or you can reinvent the product every year, and make it better and faster and cheaper, which requires factories that seem harsh by American standards,” said a current Apple executive.

Wow. It is remarkable that a company famous for "thinking differently" has executives that assume the only way to build things faster and cheaper is to have harsh working conditions.

As a counterweight to the amoral view of certain high paid Apple executives, Sara Ferguson of the Chester Upland School District reminds us of the good in humanity.

That commitment to quality public schools is even more important during these tough and uncertain economic times. My school district, Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania, has long had financial troubles. More than 70 percent of our students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. That's more than double the state average. Now, the district is in outright financial crisis.

The situation is so bad that in early January we were told that there wouldn't be enough money to pay us. We were all incredibly anxious and upset. I'm a third generation teacher, and to be told I might not be able to continue teaching my students was horrifying. We all have families to take care of, mortgages and bills to pay.

But our union leaders brought us together, and 204 teachers and 64 support staff decided unequivocally to keep working as long we were able to make ends meet. Our students had no contingency plan. They needed to be educated, so we intended to be on the job.

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