A petition on popular online petition site Change.org is gaining a lot of attention. Washington D.C.’s Mark Shields is petitioning Apple (and specifically CEO Tim Cook) to “Protect Workers Making iPhones in Chinese Factories.”
In just a few days, the petition has amassed 146,000+ signatures as of the writing of this article, and it’s progressing at an astonishing rate.
You know what’s awesome? Listening to NPR podcasts through an Apple Airport, playing through a Mac laptop, while puttering about the kitchen. Do you know the fastest way to replace awesome with a terrible knot in your stomach? Learning that your beloved Apple products are made in factories where conditions are so bad, it’s not uncommon for workers to permanently lose the use of their hands.
For awhile now, Apple has been plagued by a pretty disturbing PR crisis. Conditions inside some of their foreign manufacturing plants have been called into question – especially factories like Foxconn in China. In the past year, we’ve heard reports of mass suicides of workers at Foxconn, and just this month we reported on a mass suicide threat that was just barely avoided.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the chairman of Hon Hai, parent company to Foxconn, raised some eyebrows when he referred to the workers under his management as “animals.”
These foreign factories have been accused of numerous abuses, including refusal of pay, a lack of breaks, and improper instruction regarding toxic chemicals. A former Foxconn manager recently spoke out, saying that “Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost.”
For his part, Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly refuted these claims, saying that he takes offense to the notion that he doesn’t care about all the workers under the Apple umbrella:
As a company and as individuals, we are defined by our values. Unfortunately some people are questioning Apple’s values today, and I’d like to address this with you directly. We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It’s not who we are.
Nevertheless, here’s what is demanded by the petition:
Here are two simple asks (basically taken from the end of the TAL report) that could make a profound difference in the lives of the men and women in your factories and others like them:
First, in regards to the worker traumas described in the story, ranging from suicide attempts to the people losing the use of their hands from repetitive motion injuries, we ask that Apple release a worker protection strategy for new product releases, which are the instances when injuries and suicides typically spike because of the incredible pressure to meet quotas timed to releases.
Second, since the TAL story aired, Apple has announced that the Fair Labor Association will be monitoring its suppliers. Awesome step. Please publish the results of FLA’s monitoring, including the NAMES of the suppliers found to have violations and WHAT those violations are, so that there is transparency around the monitoring effort.
Please make these changes immediately, so that each of us can once again hold our heads high and say, “I’m a Mac person.”
150,000 signatures in a few days is a highly successful petition. It seems that the issue isn’t just going to go away. It’s hard for people to look at their devices that they rely on and love so much and think about the possible suffering that went into their construction.
But the real question when it comes to this issue: would people really change their purchasing habits? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
[Image Courtesy cultofmac]