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Activists target Apple, deliver petitions to seek labor reform

Kenneth Corbin | Feb. 10, 2012
Outraged by reports of harsh working conditions in overseas factories that produce iPhones, iPads and other popular Apple products, supporters of labor protections for supply chain partners deliver petitions to Apple stores around the world.

A group of more than a dozen activists converged on Apple's store here in Georgetown to deliver petitions protesting working conditions at the firm's supply chain partners in China, part of a day of demonstrations at Apple locations around the world.

Amanda Kloer, Change.org's director of organizing, awaits Apple's response.

The petition, started by Washington resident Mark Shields, a self-described Apple user, calls on the company to release a strategy for protecting factory workers involved in future product releases and to publish the results of the audits of its supply-chain partners that Apple has arranged with the Fair Labor Association.

Shields started his petition on Change.org in response to a radio broadcast documenting the conditions at Foxconn, a manufacturing colossus in China that produces iPads, iPhones and other Apple products, as well as electronic devices for many other blue-chip tech companies.

The story on "This American Life" that motivated Shields to take action and other news reports have described in grim detail unsafe working conditions and the stories of factory employees who live in cramped dormitories working excessive overtime on the assembly lines, the carpel tunnel syndrome many have developed from performing repetitive tasks, and the despair that has driven some to suicide. Foxconn has hung up nets outside its buildings to catch jumpers.

"I don't think that it has to be that way, and we're calling on Apple to make an ethical iPhone," Shields told reporters outside of Apple's store on Thursday. "The thing is Apple's a leader in the world. They've set themselves apart from other companies and other industries. And they've changed how we listen to music and how we see movies and use technology. I believe that they have the creativity and the capital to make a change and stop this terrible suffering."

Activists converged on Apple's store in Georgetown

In addition to the demonstration at Apple's D.C. store, activists have been delivering petitions to Apple's locations in San Francisco, New York, London, Sydney and Bangalore. Organizers said that more than 250,000 people had signed letters of protest through campaigns spearheaded by Change.org and the activism group SumOfUs.org.

"Tim Cook, who's the new CEO of Apple, faces an enormous challenge here of whether he's going to respond to the concerns of consumers and keep the brand that Apple has built over the years of thinking differently and of appealing to the kinds of ethical consumers who love Apple products ... or whether he's going to sort of stick with this supply chain that he's responsible for, coming out of his position as the COO of Apple, and continue to willfully ignore the abuses in the supply chain," said Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, the president and founder of SumOfUs.org. "We as Apple consumers call on Tim Cook personally to make the iPhone 5 the first ethically produced Apple product."

 

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