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The Most Important Apple Stories of 2012 [Best Of 2012]

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2012 was a very different year for Apple. For starters, it was Tim Cook’s first year as CEO. While much of Apple has remained the same, Cook has definitely shown that he is a different type of leader than his predecessor. Apple is evolving into something new.

Between four press events and the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Apple announced an unprecedented slew of new products in 2012. Every single major product was refreshed to some extent, which leaves even more speculation as to what Apple has up its sleeve for 2013.

There have been key executive firings and hirings, heated lawsuits, and scandals. In the midst of everything, Apple managed to become the most valuable company on earth.

While there are many big Apple moments from this past year, we’ve gathered what we think are the 10 most notable stories. Here they are:

Foxconn Workers Will Get Pay Raise In July

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Workers' wages will be increased in July, the CEO of Foxconn said.

After the FLA found wide scale violations at Apple’s main manufacturing plant, Foxconn, both Foxconn and Apple promised to fix the issues by 2013. Issues that were found include the amount of overtime worked, compensation workers receive for their overtime, and numerous health and safety risks. In what looks to be the first of changes, Foxconn and Apple will be raising workers’ wages in July.

Human Rights Org: Rest Of The Industry Needs To Follow Apple’s Lead, Protect Factory Workers

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Apple will help Foxconn improve labor conditions by stumping up some of the cash.
Apple will help Foxconn improve labor conditions by stumping up some of the cash.

The first reactions by human rights groups to the Fair Labor Association’s independent audit of Foxconn factory working conditions are in, and there is cautious optimism that the widescale abuse of Chinese factory workers may be on the cusp of coming to an end. But that’s only if the rest of the tech industry follows Apple’s lead.

What’s Going Wrong At Foxconn (And What Can Be Done To Fix Things)

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foxconn

We’ve read through the Fair Labor Association’s report on Foxconn’s facilities, and while the picture it paints of conditions is bleak, they’re not insurmountably awful, or even particularly Dickensian. Rather, these are issues that can be fixed… many through simple communication.

Here’s all the bad in the FLA’s report, and what Foxconn can do to fix things.

Foxconn’s Reforms Will Be “Life-Changing” For Workers, Says Labor Group

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Foxconn iPhone assembly
Workers at Foxconn assembling Apple products.
Photo: Foxconn

After being invited by Apple to perform an audit at Foxconn, the Fair Labor Association released its findings today in a report. The findings were a bit mixed, saying they found wide scale issues primarily around amount of overtime worked, compensation, and safety. Apple and Foxconn agreed to improve on the FLA’s findings by 2013.

Labor group Human Rights First has reacted this evening, saying that Apple and Foxconn’s changes will help reform supply chains as a whole and will be a turning point for the industry. But primarily, the changes will be “life-changing” for the workers.

Fair Labor Association Finds Widescale Violations Of Foxconn Factory Worker Rights [Breaking]

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Foxconn employees are about to get a lot happier.
Foxconn employees are about to get a lot happier.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has long said that “no one in our industry is driving improvements for workers the way Apple is today,” and to put the company’s money where its mouth was, Cupertino invited the Fair Labor Association to do a thorough audit of working conditions at Foxconn.

Now the results are in, and there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is that the Fair Labor Association found wide scale violations of Chinese labor laws, including the amount of overtime worked, the compensation received for overtime, and numerous health and safety risks, as well as “crucial communication gaps that have led to a widespread sense of unsafe working conditions among workers.”

The good news? Apple and Foxconn are fully on board fixing the issues. That’s why they agreed to the audit, and that’s why they’re committing to being compliant with all of the FLA’s guidelines by 2013. Oh, and they’re going to hire a lot more staff and workers to help even the load.

Robot Freedom Fighters Booted From Apple Store In Siri Liberation Plot [Humor]

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A poster for the upcoming play.
A poster for the upcoming play.

With all the recent protests outside Apple stores, you might think this placard-carrying duo was taking the Cupertino company to task about labor in China.

Nope: it’s a publicity stunt for a play called Robot the Rock Opera. Members of the merry troupe of the Planet X Players descended on the Cherry Creek Mall store in Denver to promote the upcoming play.

Despite the fact that it was the day of the new iPad launch, they were allowed in and given the boot (albeit cordially) by Apple employees after handing out a few flyers about liberating Apple’s robot voice assistant Siri from “slavery.”

Cult of Mac talked to writer/director Seth Iniguez Bertoni about how services like Siri are leading to “digital servitude,” whether Siri considers the work fair labor and how the actors got that mesmerizing silver sheen.

Were Workers Forced To Violate Chinese Labor Laws To Make The New iPad? [Interview]

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sumofus

Watchdog group SumOfUs has launched a new petition asking Apple to prove that workers at Foxconn factories in China weren’t subject to illegal overtime to make the iPad 3.

Specifically, they’re looking for Apple to turn over individual worker hours from November 2011-February 2012 to prove they’re not violating China’s labor laws which prohibit more than 36 hours of overtime per month.

Cult of Mac talked to SumOfUs founder Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman about what the group hopes to achieve with this latest petition, launched the morning of the iPad event as of this writing reached 41,500 of its 50,000 signature goal.

These Raging Grannies Shake It Outside The Apple Store For Worker’s Rights [Interview]

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Raging Grannies protest outside the Palo Alto store Feb. 13
Raging Grannies protest outside the Palo Alto store Feb. 13

If you happen by the Palo Alto Apple Store Monday afternoon, that group of elderly women dressed in white dancing the robot to techno music on the sidewalk aren’t some funky flashmob.

They’re Raging Grannies, and they’re are mad as hell about worker conditions in China where Apple products are made.

Galvanized by a recent Mike Daisey story on NPR about Foxconn, they’re staging monthly protests outside the Palo Alto Apple store. They’ll be on the sidewalk grooving to bring more attention to Apple’s labor policies in China at 3 p.m. on March 12.

Fair Labor Association President Says Foxconn Factory Worker Conditions Are Much Better Than Actual Sweatshops

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As most recently referenced in Tim Cook’s comments on worker safety at Goldman Sachs yesterday, Apple is spending a lot of effort in 2012 trying to solve allegations of abuse in their supply chain. This initiative has most recently culminated in Apple going to the unprecedented step of asking the Fair Labor Association to audit their factories.

The FLA’s report isn’t due until March, but already, the Fair Labor Association’s president Auret van Heerden has spoken out, saying that at first blush, Foxconn’s facilities appear to be “first-class” in comparison to the garment factories the association usually monitors.

Tim Cook: Apple Does More Than Anyone To Provide Fair Worker Conditions, But We Can Do More

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Tim-Cook

Speaking at today’s Goldman Sachs keynote, Apple CEO Tim Cook began by bluntly addressing charges of worker abuse in Apple’s supply chain: Apple will not rest until every worker is guaranteed a fair, safe working environment without discrimination and at a competitive salary. Any suppliers who don’t take care of their workers will be fired.

Apple: Fair Labor Association Will Prove We’re Committed To Ending Worker Abuse

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Foxconn iPhone assembly
A Foxconn assembly plant in China.
Photo: Foxconn

Following claims that it isn’t doing enough to end worker mistreatment in Chinese factories, Apple has publicly asked the Fair Labor Association (FLA) to “conduct special voluntary audits of Apple’s final assembly suppliers, including Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China.”

The FLA acknowledged Apple’s request almost immediately and began its first inspections at a Foxconn factory in Shenzhen this morning. Apple will be hoping that the FLA’s report puts the allegations that it is not doing all it can to bed and proves that working conditions are improving thanks to the company’s work.