Consumer Group Dogs Apple At Shareholder’s Meeting

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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.