Apple may be loved by many. But the brand that Steve Jobs built has been plagued by reports of abusive conditions at Foxconn and other factories, prompting protests at its stores and online. Online lobbying by consumers spurred Apple CEO Tim Cook to clamp down on third-party factory conditions in China and other overseas locations by joining forces with the Fair Labor Association to monitor its contractors and suppliers, making it the first technology company to sign on a participating company with FLA.
A Change.org petition was started by Mark Shields, a lifelong Apple customer, who wrote that he was "shocked to learn of the abusive working conditions in many of Apple's supplier factories," and has since received more than 250,000 signatures.
A parallel petition calling for ethical iPhone manufacturing by corporate accountability lobbying group SumOfUs.org garnered another 50,000 signatures and both groups supported protest events last week and delivery of signed petitions at Apple stores in Bangalore, London, Washington, DC, San Francisco and Sydney. SumOfUs, however, isn't convinced that FLA can be trusted.
Change.org's petition had asked Apple to create a "worker protection strategy" for its products and be transparent about the findings of the FLA, the independent watchdog group that Apple joined last month. "I'm a big fan of Apple products, but I can no longer ethically support products that harm the people that make them," commented Shelby Knox, an organizing director with Change.org. "When people join together, we can hold companies accountable."
In a statement today confirming that the FLA inspections have begun, Apple CEO Cook comments: “We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers. The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports.”
FLA’s findings and recommendations will be posted in early March on its website, while other inspections will follow at Quanta and Pegatron facilities. SumOfUs.org isn't satisfied.
"This new announcement shows the pressure is working,” said Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Executive Director of SumOfUs.org, referring to Apple's FLA announcement. “But instead of actually solving the problem, they’re trying to whitewash it — hiring a business-funded group with a long track record of serving as a corporate mouthpiece. Apple consumers want real action to improve workers’ lives, not more spin. We’re not going to be satisfied until the workers who make our iPhones have safe and healthy working conditions."
Is Apple doing enough to ensure human rights are respected at its factories? Is joining forces with Fair Labor Association a smart response to the Foxconn crisis? Post your thoughts below.