Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Activists to protest at Apple stores, deliver petition asking for 'ethical' iPhone

A recent report in The New York Times described the human cost of the electronics we received from factories in China, including iPads and iPhones. While such conditions are not exclusive to Apple, with its position as the most valuable company in the world by market capitalization, the Cupertino-based company is a large target for activists.

On Thursday, protesters around the world plan to descend on Apple stores. Included in the protests will be the presentation of a petition signed by 250,000 people, which asks the company to develop a worker protection strategy in response to reported abuse in Chinese supplier factories. Among the stores to see a petition delivery will be Apple's new Grand Central Terminal store, at 10 a.m. EST.

Mark Shields created the petition on He said, “I have been a lifelong Apple customer and was shocked to learn of the abusive working conditions in many of Apple’s supplier factories. At Foxconn, one of Apple’s biggest manufacturers, there is a history of suicides, abusive working conditions, and almost no pay. These working conditions are appalling, especially for Apple.”

Other petition deliveries will take place at Apple stores in Washington, D.C.; New York City; San Francisco; London; Sydney, Australia; and Bangalore, India.

After the NYT expose, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the company’s policies, sending an e-mail to employees last month in which he said, " We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don't care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It's not who we are."

Apple may have said that however, but the suicides at Foxconn as well as the explosion that took place at Foxconn's Chengdu facility in 2011 seem to belie that. However, despite the protests, consumers are at least partly to blame for the conditions at the factories. As a current Apple exec said to the NYT, speaking anonymously,

"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. And right now, customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China."

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