It seems that lengthy report looking into the poor working conditions in Chinese factories assembling Apple products is going to haunt the Cupertino company for some time yet. The latest backlash comes from consumer group SumOfUs, which has launched a petition calling for Apple to “stop worker abuse,” with over 35,000 signatures collected in just 24 hours.
It all started with a New York Times report that was published on January 26, detailing the chilling conditions that Chinese factory workers must suffer while they assemble our favorite Apple devices. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has already expressed his outrage at the report, labeling accusations that the company didn’t care “patently false and offensive.”
Cook also assured Apple employees that the company has “made a great deal of progress and improved conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers,” but this hasn’t deterred the protesters.
A petition launched by SumOfUs has collected 35,000 signatures from people who are calling for Apple to do more to improve working conditions in Chinese factories. The company’s executive director, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, believes the considering Apple’s “famous” attention to detail, the only way the company can not know what’s happening in Chinese factories is through “willful ignorance.”
But despite this, Stinebrickner-Kauffman loves her iPhone:
“I use an iPhone myself. I love it, but I don’t love having to support sweatshops, and neither do millions of other Apple consumers.”
“The hip, educated market that Apple aspires to corner is largely composed of responsible consumers who don’t want to be complicit in sweatshop labor. Apple’s attention to detail is famous, and the only way they could fail to be aware of dozens of worker deaths, of child labor, of exposure to neurotoxins is through willful ignorance.”
Stinebrickner-Kauffman concludes by blasting Tim Cook, who she believes could do more to fix the problems if he was really offended by the allegations:
“If Tim Cook is really offended by these allegations, why isn’t he doing anything to fix the problems? Every time a Foxconn worker is killed or disabled making an Apple product, Mr. Cook bears personal moral responsibility. Apple’s enforcement of razor-thin profit margins at suppliers invites – and may even force – them to slash workers’ rights. But Apple is going to have much bigger longer-term problems than paying a few extra dollars for its products if it loses its luster with ethical consumers.”
While factory working conditions may need addressing, Apple has stressed the efforts it is making to do this on numerous occasions. It has also launched a Supplier Responsibility section on its website that allows us to track these improvements, and it has signed up to support the Fair Labor Association.
While additional pressure on the Cupertino company may inspire it to do more, maybe it’s also time for us to turn to the other manufacturers, like Dell, HP, Sony, and many more, who also use Foxconn factories for product assembly, and may not be taking the same steps Apple is to improve these issues.
If you’d like to sign the petition yourself, you can do so by visiting the petition page on the SumOfUs website.