Consumer Group Dogs Apple At Shareholder’s Meeting


Protesters at Apple headquarters in Cupertino. Image credit: Ted Smith.
Protesters at Apple headquarters in Cupertino. Image credit: Ted Smith.

A small but determined group of protesters from consumer watchdog group SumOfUs gathered at Apple headquarters in Cupertino and headed inside the shareholder’s meeting to ask questions about working conditions at Foxconn.

SumOfUs in Cupertino. Image credit: Ted Smith.

Chanting “I want an ethical iPhone,” organizers say about 30 people total convened at the Cupertino campus.  SumOfUs member Melissa Byrne told Cult of Mac that some of them were inside the meeting with the intent of pressing Tim Cook for answers about conditions in Chinese factories.

Byrne, speaking from an iPhone, told Cult of Mac that she doesn’t think the group will call for a consumer boycott of Apple devices.

“I don’t think it will come to that, we have to work with Apple for change,” she said.

SumOfUs stationed outside Apple headquarters this morning to deliver a letter they say is a direct appeal from ex-factory workers in China for better working conditions. The letter cast a shadow over an already solemn annual shareholder’s meeting, the first one since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ death in October.

In the letter translated from Chinese, Guo Rui-Qiang and Jia Jing-Chuan are said to be two former workers suffering from permanent nerve damage from the chemical solution used to clean scores of iPhone screens. In it, they call for “We want to see a strict corporate social responsibility and reform of the audit system to prevent similar tragedies in the future.”

Those SumOfUs iPhone costumes are getting a workout: on Feb. 9 they helped deliver a petition to San Francisco’s Apple store to protest Foxconn conditions.

Although Apple is just one of the global consumer electronics companies who build gadgets at Foxconn, the Cupertino company has become mired in pubic relations quicksand despite efforts to become more transparent about how their must-have devices are made.

Groups like SumOfUs have said that Apple’s joining the Fair Labor Association and paying for an audit are “white washing” labor problems there. SumOfUs founder Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman likened the effort to the “fox guarding the hen house.”

Where are the iPhone-clad protesters headed next?

“We won’t stop until there’s an ethical iPhone,” Byrne said.

  • Moog

    I’m sure ALL these people have electronics made at the same places the iPhone is made…  Hypocrites.

  • Robert X

    Whose ethics?

  • berianlowe

    I predict a riot.

  • David Trevino

    ok, show is over, those 3 old ladies can go back to their holes now.

  • David Trevino

    ok, show is over, those 3 old ladies can go back to their holes now.

  • Amy

    Hey, cynic, we all bought Apple products before the company’s heinous workers’ rights violations came to the fore. We certainly enjoy using our iPods, iPhones, iMacs, but we want to see Apple take a leadership role in addressing these problems, rather than pushing the issue back under the rug.

  • maccid

    It’s amazing that between cooking and taking the kids to soccer practice, these imbeciles had time to go stand in front of Apple. Talk about making a difference.

  • Craig Ciccone

    get an f’ing life people.  protesting to make yourself think you’re a good person.  if you were doing it for any other reason, you wouldn’t be participating in a silly little protest that accomplishes nothing outside a company who has done more than anyone on the planet to improve the lives of workers assembling their devices in china.  morons.

  • drexyl9944

    so 3 people and the rest of them ummmmmmmmmmmm they’re in the bathroom…… just missed them i swear……if they’re not in the bathroom then they’re totally in tim cook’s face demanding answers….


  • Shane Bryson

    Wonder how many of them own Kindles, PS3s, Xbox 360s, or Nintendo Wiis…All of which come out of Foxconn plants

  • Shane Bryson

    Amy, do you own, Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo products? They all have products coming out of Foxconn. How come they are never mentioned? How come I don’t see signs that read, “I want an ethical Xbox”?

  • Alex

    So if everyone else is doing it that makes it ok ? 

    Maybe it has something to do with fact that Apple sells its products for a premium. 

  • Alex

    Standing up for workers rights is a bad thing ? And it did make a difference because they got your attention ..

  • Alex

    I suspect if these people where protesting at the Microsoft Campus in Redmond a lot of the people complaining here would be applauding them. And no one would say well Apple has work done at Foxconn.

  • Chris Powers

    Kinda disappointed I didn’t see a guy holding up a poster with the “John 3:16” on it… LOL…

  • Ralph Perez

    These people should be in front of every WalMart!…Nothing better to do!

  • Craig Ciccone

    yes it got his a negative manner.  Standing up for workers rights is a good thing, as long as you do in the right context, in a fair and balanced way.  a bunch of soccer moms protesting a board meeting of a company accomplishing the most for workers’ rights in china may be a bad thing.

  • Alex

    Yeah I forgot that “soccer moms ” weren’t allowed to protest and don’t have anything to say ….  Actually protesting at  shareholder meetings is a  pretty standard tactic to get a company to change its ways. 

     I travel all over the world in my job, and it has really opened my eyes to how many western companies treat their third world national employees like dirt (I have seen mind blowing poverty and despair first hand) .  But I think many people in this country would rather no think too much about how their goods are made. And its funny how sensitive Apple diehards get when they are confronted by fact that the squeaky clean image Apple likes to put forward might not reflect reality.  Apple is a profit driven multinational company and like their competition they don’t play nice, its all about the profit margin.

  • CharliK

    His point is that you probably have other things from companies that use Foxconn and Wintek but those companies aren’t being called upon to give a shit about the workers that build that stuff. And if it isn’t electronics it is very likely at least part of the clothes you are wearing. 

    And he’s right. Singling out one company isn’t enough. Especially when the other 70 or so companies have more units built than Apple does. 

    Also, there’s no proof of any mass ‘heinous work conditions’, especially on the Apple lines. Those 16-17 year olds could be legally allowed to work. They are making more than enough money to cover cost of living. There is no proof they are getting bread and water and are starving or that they are packed into those dorm rooms like sardines in a can. 

    Apple found out that Wintek wasn’t using the approved cleaner and told them to cut it out. They also demanded that Wintek straighten out all issues with venting etc. They didn’t ignore the issue like some are trying to claim. Apple wasn’t responsible for the use of a potentially toxic substance, Wintek was. So Wintek is to blame and is the one that should pay any costs. And has. 

    Apple hasn’t pushed anything under the rug then or now. They have been surprisingly open. It’s the other companies that are keeping quiet and enjoying that they haven’t gotten pushed into the spotlight so no one knows what they aren’t doing. 

  • CharliK

    Shane isn’t saying that at all. 

    Apple is getting the diss because Apple gets page hits which makes sites money because they all have ads etc going on. 

    But they are not the only potentially guilty party and the rest of the gang should be getting attention also. 

    ESPECIALLY Microsoft when  you consider the 100 folks that climbed up onto the roof of the Xbox factory and said that their working conditions were utter crap and if it didn’t change they were all going to jump together (no nets on that building) because being dead was better than working in that factory. 

    that’s basically double the people tied to Apple that have even attempted suicide at Foxconn in the last 5 years or so. But it got maybe 3 articles in one day and then was forgotten

  • Craig Ciccone

    i employed the “soccer moms” reference someone else mentioned because i think it did a good job of displaying these people as what they are-1 small step up from complete slacktivism of just adding your email/name to a petition online. Some local people who drove down to apple’s hq because it doesn’t require that much effort/time/money.   

    They’re targeting apple (as everyone does) because they can do so on the largest stage.  If they were to focus on companies doing little to nothing, and therefor far, far more guilty of “injustices” in their supply chain, we would not see any protesters at an apple shareholder meeting.

  • Shane Bryson

     Alex, thanks for taking me completely and totally out of context. I think anyone with half a brain could see that I was simply saying Apple shouldn’t be the only company getting slammed for this. Protest them all, not just Apple.

  • Shane Bryson

     You might want to go troll another website.

  • Roger Ramshit

     Yep…this just annoys. Where do these people think their devices are made and by whom. While they are at it perhaps they should wonder where their pants, shirt, shoes, bike, TV’s are made….theya re all in Asian sweatshops (mostly anyway). What a bunch of space wasters.
    This is a global problem that requires a global solution…at the political level.

  • Alex

    Sorry,  I forgot that sticking up for people who care worker rights is trolling …  I should bash them like you, because then I’ll feel better … Are you a Republican by any chance ?

  • Roger Ramshit

     Why dont you take a leadership role and start buying ALL your purchaseds from places other than Asian or South-Asian sweatshops….good luck on that one.

  • Roger Ramshit

     Isn’t that a Google VIP on the front… now the protest makes sense. Don’t buy Apple…buy an Android device and don’t worry where it is made.

  • Roger Ramshit

     “I want an ethical iPhone”

    There is a simple solution to this of course. Apple can assemble a few thousand of them in Cupertino and can be sold to those who don’t mind paying more (it can even say Made in the USA). The rest of the masses who want to get the iPhone at the competitive price (remember that Apple has to compete with all the cheap Android handsets) can buy the ones from Foxconn.

  • Roger Ramshit

     Yep…there are hundreds of companies inthe same boat as Apple but why protest outside a low profile company!

  • Alex

    I don’t about you, I tend hold companies I do business with to a higher standard. I’ve owned Apple products since the early 80’s,  Apple has gotten a quite a bit of my money over the last 30 years.  So if I own their products and I find out they are behaving badly I’m not allowed to speak up ?   

  • Alex

    I don’t about you, I tend hold companies I do business with to a higher standard. I’ve owned Apple products since the early 80’s,  Apple has gotten a quite a bit of my money over the last 30 years.  So if I own their products and I find out they are behaving badly I’m not allowed to speak up ?   

  • Killer_Kadoogan

    It’s a shame these people care more about attention whoring than the chinese workers they claim to care about. There are plenty of other companies using Foxconn and plenty using non-Foxconn labour that are paid less and have worse conditions. Sumofus seem to be more about making themselves feel nice by being part of the cool anti-Apple crowd, whilst not sparing a thought for all those chinese labourers. Sadly they are part of the problem, not the solution.

  • Shaun Green

    With great wealth comes great responsibility.

    Apple is top dog at the moment. If Apple leads the others will follow.

  • OEB

    Im tired of all the Apple bashing regarding poor worker conditions in China.  Most people can’t even point out Shenzhen on a map.  Even less people know that nearly all of our electronic crap comes from there.  And even less people than that know that Foxconn has better conditions than nearly every other company in its industry.  Hell, when Foxconn has a hiring day, thousands line up just to get a job there.  Why?  Because the conditions at Foxconn are superior to nearly everything else available.  If you want to blame someone then blame the Chinese government.  It is a thug run establishment that throws its citizens in prison if they even ‘attempt’ to unionize.  How do people think that Apple can change the culture of a company they do not own (Foxconn) in a country that wants to keep it’s labor force cheap and non unionized?  The root of the problem is the Chinese government.  If you want to solve this problem, have them change their policies.  Oh, and by the way:  good luck.

  • Jonathan Wong

     It’s sensible logic that works either way.  Hardly trolling

  • Jonathan Wong

     In all honesty, Apple isn’t top dog exactly.  In terms of mobile market share, Android wins.  But in terms of individual sales from each company of mobile devices, Apple wins and they get credit for that.  As for the desktop market, hardly top dog.

    People won’t follow Apple’s suit just because Apple does it.  They’ll only follow suit if Apple does it and it proves profitable and is predicted to succeed and be profitable in multiple ways.  Other companies aren’t copying Apple.  They’ll just follow suit if they believe they can replicate the same action to the same degree of success as Apple.

  • Jonathan Wong

    Not all companies are as mean as Foxconn in terms of worker treatment.  There are companies like Meizu that are significantly nicer.  The only reason people do flock to Foxconn is because they need to do so to make a living.  If they had an option to work for Meizu, they’d go there right away.  Take a look back in American history when migrant workers from Europe took any factory job they could get.  Better to be able to make some bit of money then none.  That doesn’t make paying dirt to workers right just because the workers want the job because its all they can get. 

    Yeah, the Chinese government and its Communistic practices suck and is evil.  But there is nothing at all stopping Apple from choosing to manufacture in other places like the Us or  any other country that pays workers more.  The only other reason that Apple is sticking to China is ebcause they still want profits more then worker rights and welfare in China.  And now Apple is trying to make changes there?  Well they’ll only improve to an extent that its still more profitable then manufacturing in any other country. 

    Sad but that’s how business runs

  • OEB

    I don’t think comparing Meizu to Foxconn is the best example.  Meizu has less than 1000 factory employees.  Foxconn has 13 factories and the one in Shenzhen houses nearly half a million workers.   They have 10 cafeterias and each one can hold 4000 people at a time.  Each cafeteria has about 40-50 thousand people go through it everyday.  So yeah, Meizu has better conditions in probably every way.

    Regardless, Apple does not make policies in China.  They are a guest company utilizing the cheaper labor provided by Communist policies just like nearly every other electronics company in the world.  All of our electronics are hand made these days because its the best way to keep costs as low as possible.  Currently, it is also the only way to compete in the market.  In any case, blaming Apple for all of this crap is futile and ridiculous.  

  • Jonathan Wong

    Well true that.  They can’t compared size wise.  Like the old workshops of America that became factories.  Personal work-boss relations turned sour.

    No one can blame Apple for the continuation of these horrible conditions.  As you said, its the government’s fault for not regulating it.  Without regulatiion, any business would do whatever the hell they want.  Though, that doesn’t mean that Apple can’t choose to manufacture elsewhere.  But that goes for any company.  Its that company’s fault for choosing to take part in the bad treatment.  but the root of the issue lies with the governments. 

  • OEB

    Pushing the issue under the rug?  How? By forcing audits on Foxconn?  By giving ABC Nightline floor access to their factories?  By creating policies to be ‘the’ ethical leader in factory worker conditions?  Please give me an example of this ‘pushing under the rug’ you speak of.

  • OEB

    I agree with you.  Apple could choose to manufacture elsewhere.  Unfortunately there are less than 5 companies on the planet that could manufacture the supply required by Apple in the time frame required by Apple.  And they all happen to be in China.  Foxconn is opening up a factory in Brazil.  It will be interesting to see worker conditions and labor practices there.

  • Jonathan Wong

    How are the government regulations of labor in Brazil? 

  • Ronteras

    Uhm, dear protesters, next time please come protesting naked or with clothes made in Western Europe or US because your clothes are made in China and in much worse working conditions  than Apple’s.  

  • koopapoopas

    This is how everything you own is being made.  You are being sanctimonious, yet with blinders.

    This was out in 2005.

  • Eat Sleep Mac

    They look like idiots.. go do something productive. Plus most the people at Foxconn like their jobs because it’s either that or shoveling shit all day. The problem is more China in general than Foxconn itself..

  • Slurpy2k11

    What rights are they sticking up for, exactly? Oh, you probably didn’t think that ahead, cause those words had a nice ring to them so you used them. Apple has done more than every single other tech company combined. From the supplier reports, to the audits, to the transparency, the the worker programs they’ve implemented, from giving unprecedented access to media inside the factories, to undertaking the most comprehensive audit in the history of the supply chain, etc. Considering almost every company on the planet manufactures in similar and worse conditions, protesting the company that has by far done the most and has amde the most effort into improving things is grotesquely ignorant at best, and disingenuous and blatantly agenda driven at worst. 

    Oh, and I’m not a republican, and believe most of them to have despicable view points on pretty much everything. But I’m also not an idiot, have researched this supplier issue greatly, and am not willing to ‘jump on the bandwagon’ and start barking up the wrong tree. Apple is not problem, if they pull out out of China it will be a disaster for the Chinese, and efforts to ‘stick up’ for workers are better spent elsewhere.