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Apple Responds to CNN Report on Factory Working Conditions in China

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Even with the release of its Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, Apple continues to be targeted by the media. The New York Times wrote a lengthy piece that Tim Cook vehemently responded to, and now CNN has their own report that includes interviews with employees from Foxconn, responsible for manufacturing iPhones and iPads:

After three weeks of applying more than 4,000 stickers a day onto iPad screens by hand and working 60 hours a week in an assembly line, Chen says she’s ready to go back to school and study hard so she’ll never have to return to Foxconn.

“It’s so boring, I can’t bear it anymore. Everyday is like: I get off from work and I go to bed. I get up in the morning, and I go to work. It is my daily routine and I almost feel like an animal,” said Ms. Chen, who aspires to become a biologist.

When asked why humans do machine-like work at Foxconn, she responds, “Well, humans are cheaper.”

Within the report, Apple surprisingly responded to CNN. Here’s what they had to say:

“We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made. Our suppliers must live up to these requirements if they want to keep doing business with Apple.”

Apple officials also noted last month it became the first company admitted to the Fair Labor Association, “a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving conditions for workers around the world.”

It’s a delicate issue when it comes to factory working conditions in China, as companies such as Foxconn implement razor thin margins to retain Apple contracts and in the process marginalize their workforce.

Many claim the life of a factory worker is ultimately better than toiling in the fields, which requires more work and less pay. Apple claims to hold a higher standard for its suppliers and its recent report is transparent evidence of that.

Can we say the same for other tech companies that employ workers at Foxconn? It would be interesting to learn about the conditions of a Kindle or Xbox assembly line worker. What’s the solution? Stop buying anything ‘Made in China’?

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  • Kaleim

    I’d love to say that we’re going to make a difference by boycotting anything made in china, but I don’t think that this is the most realistic or effective way to deal with this very serious issue. For starters, some products are made exclusively in china. For example, xbox or ps3 consoles. If I wanted to give up all products manufactured in china, I would basically be saying I’m never going to own an xbox or ps3. I’d probably have to swear off owning a cell phone (even Blackberry is made in mexico last time I checked!), and I’d never be able to buy almost any nerdy product. I think most people (99% of ppl) would say they support the cause, but at the end of the day I bet you they won’t stop buying chinese goods.

    Instead, here’s how I think we can make a difference: by directing the (inter)national conversation so that companies are forced to give up some of their precious profits because of pressure to become a more ethical company.

    Here’s how you achieve this:

    1. Continue writing articles like this, which expose the poor condition of workers and update us on Apple’s decent-compared-to-other-companies-but-still-pretty-lame response to such criticisms. Apple needs to realize how bad this is making them look so that they feel pressured to be bold on this issue.

    2. Post articles that highlight companies who make ethical products. To be honest, I don’t even know who makes products ethically. I couldn’t even tell you if GE makes their stuff in North America (Although now I’m going to look that up ASAP). Why not post an article or two showing the conditions of manufacturing workers who are treated properly? Let’s give those companies credit because I can’t stop buying chinese products if I don’t know what else there is to buy.

    3. Readers need to post these articles to twitter, facebook, tumblr, and whatever else the kids use these days. I shared the New York Times article on Foxconn with my twitter followers and three of my friends read the article as a result of the fact that I posted it. A couple of days later, I did the same thing on Facebook and 7 different people commented on it. If everyone who read this post did that, the issue might go viral enough for Apple to step up their response.

    4. Stop buying products that are made in China! I know I’ve said a bunch of times that this is impossible, but sometimes you do have a choice. As more articles like the ones I mentioned in point #2 start appearing, read them and support those companies. If you make it a priority, so will Apple and once Apple does, the rest of the industry will follow.

  • Anonymous

    “After three weeks of applying more than 4,000 stickers a day onto iPad
    screens by hand and working 60 hours a week in an assembly line…”
    “It is my daily routine and I almost feel like an animal”

    “Apple claims to hold a higher standard for its suppliers and its recent report is transparent evidence of that.”

    What?

    I wonder how workers for a company with not high standard look like.

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