Recently, I was reminded of the plight of the worker as America is saddled with high unemployment.  As an American icon, Apple has become what is wrong with our labor picture.  The innovation giant and its success has not had the trickle down affect of labor employment.  They, like so many others, have shipped their labor overseas and the accompanying lack of manufacturing job creation leaves America both less wealthy and less innovative.

Without labor to make Apple products, we are missing future opportunities to innovate from knowledge gained from making the products.  Maybe antenna-gate would never have happened.  Labor is an integral part of the system as the Apple Genius Bar.

Our elitist mind-set has us believing that management, lean six sigma black belts and project managers are more important than those that do the work.  Labor is treated as a commodity that should be negotiated for the lowest price.

And it isn’t just traditional labor that is getting the shaft.  Contact centers, software developers, HR, finance and even research scientists are being outsourced, shared and marginalized.  This leaves no labor that can actually create value in the eyes of the customer in manufacturing or service.

This is a disturbing trend and the root of some of the unrest we have seen in the Middle East.  When jobs aren’t available, political upheaval is in the future.  The problem is . . . the future is now.

Apple for all its success is a beacon for what is wrong with America.  They return high profit with cheap labor and their success has created a whole new generation of misguided thinking.  The economy of scale and mass production thinking blinds them to better ways to design and manage work.

It is American management that has marginalized the worker with poor work design and thinking.  Apple, as the great innovator should have long come to understand and embrace this as fact.

This creates a paradox for Apple as their biggest customers are right here in America.  With all their labor outsourced, who will be able to afford their products in the future?

Join me for the International Deming Conference in New York City on March 21 – 22.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for  Download free from “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at LinkedIn at