Apple Needs To Think Different About Chinese Workers, Say Protesters

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The Raging Grannies at the Palo Alto Apple store.
The Raging Grannies at the Palo Alto Apple store.

Apple fans and journalists asking them why they stood in line overnight weren’t the only ones outside retail stores for the debut of the latest iPad.

Consumer groups protesting labor conditions at the factories in China where those shiny new tablets were made were also out making their voices heard.

Change.org representatives at today's iPad launch.

Change.org was stationed outside stores in Washington, DC, New York City, and San Francisco, while the Raging Grannies took up their post outside the iconic Palo Alto store.

Protesters have frequently harnessed media attention at Apple stores, but if the Palo Alto scene is an indication, they had a hard time channeling the hoopla during a product launch.

Raging Grannies Ruth Robertson and Gail Sredanovic were out half an hour before the store opened at 8:00 a.m., but instead of putting on their usual rockstravaganza protest, they were told to keep it down by journalists who incited Apple fans in line to cheer for the TV cameras.

“So we passed out our literature,” Robertson told Cult of Mac by phone. “Some people were receptive, others wanted to argue economics with us. They seemed to think the market alone can fix it or that it’s simply China’s problem not Apple’s.”  The open letter of about 300 words asked for greater transparency in worker’s rights and conditions at the factories where Apple products are made.

Out in front of the San Francisco store, Charlotte Hill of Change.org says she and the dozen or so members representing the 250,000 people who signed the online petition were interviewed by a number of media outlets and found a “generally supportive” atmosphere by the folks waiting in line for the new iPad.

“A lot of people who signed Mark Shields’ petition are Apple users and love Apple,” Hill said, speaking from an iPhone. “The people in line today were pretty respectful; many people who love the products get the message that Apple should to live up to thinking differently when it comes to making them.”

Chatting with the people in line in Palo Alto, Sredanovic says that some admitted to being “addicted” to Apple products, something she has a hard time understanding but says is a sign of a consumerist society where companies like Apple build obsolescence into attractive products.

Both organizations said they will keep up the pressure on Apple until labor conditions at its contract manufacturing plants are changed.

“We made our statement, we were heard and that’s what we do,” Sredanovic said.