iPhone

Petitions and marches urge Apple to take action on working conditions abroad

How will Apple respond to watchdog groups and concerned consumers who are demanding better treatment for factory workers abroad? Does the controversy affect your opinion of Apple? Take the poll.

Watchdog groups and protesters are joining forces to put pressure on Apple to improve the working conditions in Chinese factories that make up the company's supply chain, particularly those workers responsible for assembling the iPhone.

Investigative reporting by the New York Times and others uncovered troubling details of poor working conditions and safety issues that have sparked petition campaigns by SumOfUs and Change.org that have gathered more than 250,000 signatures. According to CNET News:

Both petitions are being delivered to stores tomorrow, with a delivery to Apple's recently opened Grand Central Terminal store happening at 10 a.m. Eastern. The group said it's producing "large iPhone posters" and printed handouts to coincide with its delivery.

This controversy brings up a lot of issues that plague the electronics industry -- not only Apple. Outsourcing manufacturing jobs pits ethical standards against the ability to deliver an affordable product and maintain a competitive edge. And while Apple is not alone in this dilemma, as an industry leader with record profits the company has to expect extra scrutiny. How do you think Apple will respond to the pressure? Considering the popularity of Apple products, will consumers demand better conditions for workers even though it means an even more expensive iPhone, iPad, etc.?

New development:

ZDNet: Apple's external inspections of Foxconn a good first step

Related:

About

Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...

43 comments
pmshah
pmshah

The US government has 2 very distinct and diametrically opposite ways of dealing with such situations. 1. An independent overseas manufacturer manufacturing and selling generic products to a US buyer. He retains the profits and is NOT tied to any specific US buyer. In this scenario the govt. will find $ 10/- per day paid to the worker for an 8 hour shift to be too little and try to force so called better wages and working conditions. 2. A contract manufacturer, manufacturing branded products, employing workers being paid $ 10/= per day who are doing 12 to 16 hour shifts, putting in 30 days a month is fine and dandy since the US corporation retains ALL the profits having ALL the lawmakers in their pockets. No problems here! But then I keep forgetting the phrase I heard repeatedly while living in the US for 7 years - "Its all about money, Honey !"

Zolar
Zolar

As long as time existed businesses have outsourced. Only until recently has there been any question about it. The more we try to control other countries internal affairs the more HATED the USA will become. If you enrage China what do you think they will do? The news media is to blame for most of this. If they kept their noses out of others affairs the whole world would be better off. To the poster that said he would pay an extra $20 if it was made here? Think again. The price would have to double or triple just to pay the higher wages, 'better?' working conditions, and all the governmental regulations shoved down businesses throats (EG ADA requirements, etc). We need to be absolutely neutral. Trying to force others to our 'standards' will cause repercussions. Those people over there are HAPPY just to have a job. Perhaps all the whiners wanting Apple to do something should quit their job and be disqualified from any future employment or government handouts for at least 15 years. Then I bet you all would drool to have ANY job. Telling others what they can and cannot do it tantamount to the government coming in YOUR house and telling YOU how to live. Or perhaps your boss doing the same thing. You all need to worry about your own selves. How can you help your neighbor remove a splinter from their eye when you got a LOG in yours? Best advice is for EVERYONE to butt out.

BillGates_z
BillGates_z

Apple and any company (including the one you work for) would have you working under the least expensive conditions for the meanest wages they could get away with - oh wait, they do. How great are your working conditions cubicle bunny?

Computer Dave
Computer Dave

I own exactly 2 Apple products: an 80 gig iPod that is now 6 or 7 years old, and a 512mb Shuffle that's even older. I have no desire for any current Apple product. And I can't stomach the fact that they have so many "employees" overseas when their primary market is the US. I've seen reports on how much it would add to the price of an i-thing if they were made here and it's rediculously small. Considering that Apple doesn't really have to compete with anyone (no one else can make a Mac or an iPad) they can charge whatever they like. Apple should do 1 of 2 things: 1) Open factories in the US and bring all those jobs here. 2) Move everyone and everything from Cupertino to Bejing. Let's see how all those anti-American managers like living in China. I'm SO glad I don't have to work with any of their products. And yes, I know: Dell, HP, etc are no better in terms of outsourced jobs, but Apple is the largest abuser.

laBaronRouge
laBaronRouge

Apple is out sourcing their productions to others such as Samsung. Shouldn't they, the actual owners of the factories, get the protest first? If that's not working, then hit their customers.

Zolar
Zolar

Their standards of living and working are significantly lower than those in the US. Is it any of our business to tell other countries how to handle their own affairs? Apple still has to abide by the laws in other countries. Why pay someone $20/hour over there when the typical wage might be $1.50.hour and considered a good wage? Working conditions might want to be addressed but not by US standards. By the standards of THOSE countries that the workers live in. If you raise their standard of living to match ours what do you think the global economy will do? You make a bunch of gas guzzling and gas wasting consumers that further tax our already diminished supplies of oil. And food. The more food available the higher the birth rate and the MORE consumers of dwindling resources. I say let them alone and let them handle their own people and laws. About moving Apple here - not gonna happen. It costs too much in taxes, insurance, wages, etc and far too much governmental interference. ADA is but one of those interferences. Patriot Act is another. The Japanese once said that Americans are a bunch of lazy people. Wow! They hit the nail on the head! Companies in the USA have to make too many unnecessary accommodations for it's employees. Companies have to be too tolerant of social misfits as well. When America stops coddling the people and fixes the laws to be conducive for good business things will change. And I am not talking about lowering wages either. I am however in favor of eliminating all write offs for companies that outsource. We need to keep the money here. And tax those companies who outsource to the hilt. It will match the lost revenue we would have had if the companies stayed here in the first place. No American should ever have to compete with people from other countries.

aflynnhpg
aflynnhpg

To quote their song "Issues, think about it": "They're turning kids into slave just to make cheaper sneakers, but what's the real cost cause the sneakers don't seem that much cheaper, why are we still paying so much for sneakers when you got them made by little slave kids, what are your overheads". Is there a more expensive manufacturer of computer products out there than apple? Quality costs right? Apple, what are your overheads?

toodevastate
toodevastate

The mistake of all large companys is thinking that people will continue to take their guff forever. Remember, French Royalty thought it could go on abusing The French People for all time. We know what happened there. Our responsibility is to hold these guys feet to the fire. To get them to start back to remembering that people are not commodities to be used up and thrown away.

kevin
kevin

Having been born and raised here in the United States it is difficult sometimes to really comprehend what the Chinese business enviroment is. The Chinese government controls all businesses. All businesses! They set the standard for the labor practices, not the companies like Apple, Dell or Microsoft. So just exactly what can we do to HOLD THEIR FEET TO THE FIRE? What would you propose we do to the Chinese government? Would you like to start a WAR with the Chinese? Why or what makes it Apple's responsibility to FIX labor practices in China. Keep in mind that the workers in these plants like earning what is considered there a decent wage, and they prefer to do that instead of being a farmer, which is what they would have to do if we did not have a manufacturing presence there. Are we doing them a favor? No more then they are us. Is there room for improvement? Yes. But that isn't the responsibility of the private business sector to repair. Tim Cook can certainly bid that the labor practices be improved, as I am sure have improved over time. At the end of the day, if Apple places demands that the government doesn't agree with, or pays what we consider a minimum wage and that reduces the competitive pricing matrix, other companies who also do business in China will take up the slack and the Chinese get that business anyway, and Americans rip-off the cheap labor market from a different direction. What we need to do is build something here that we can sell to the Chinese and once we have our trade balances in order, we just might have some leverage to improve the conditions there. Meanwhile, all we can do is enjoy the really cool tech devices that Apple (and others) are having the Chinese build for us.

BillGates_z
BillGates_z

Kevin you are a very ignorant person. Please have a look at labor history right here in the USA and what pre-union conditions were like. Also you may be a tech or other "white collar" employee in a very nice situation yourself, but plenty of us spend our days in cubicle hell. Not a window in sight, fluorescent tubes, and zero privacy. Combine that with shrinking (if any) health care, no pensions, just 401Ks with smaller and smaller co-contributions, and zero security for our service (CEO screws up, you're cannon fodder). May be it's time white collar guys had a union.

kevin
kevin

This is not the first example of stealing the natural resources (human) of another country. So before all these soccer-moms leading this protest get so uppity, perhaps they should take another look at the mini-van they drive and count how many of the parts were build overseas. How come they dont boycott WalMart? I'll bet you can't find ten things in a Walmart build in the US. WalMart barely pays minimum wage too. Lets all line up to work for them!

chdchan
chdchan

So before Obama want to seize back the manufacturing industries from China, think twice if you are ready to pick up what Chinese can bear now.

kevin
kevin

Just because Apple makes a better product doesn't make the other phone and tablet manufacturers exempt from scrutiny. Face it! First of all bringing these jobs back to the US is never going to happen. In addition to the US Government red tape that makes building these plants here impossible, there is also the problem of an available work force. Apple employs 700,000 (indirectly and directly) in China, but 33,000 of those employees have to be engineers. As Steve Jobs told President Obama, "the us doesn't have 33,000 engineers that he could hire" So to bring jobs like these here the US has to fix the excessive government controls, fix the educational system and start educating our children and for anyone who has even glanced at how our legislators operate, it should be obvious that just isn't going to happen as long as there is so much hatred between the two parties!

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

Obama will force them to locate in a forced-unionism state instead of a right to work state like they did to Boeing last year. What would also help is a more business-friendly climate, maybe look at removing or streamlining regulations. It would also help to lower the corporate tax rate which is among the highest in the world. These are some of the reasons many companies outsourced. All this can be done without reducing the labor force to "slave" status or wrecking the environment.

BillGates_z
BillGates_z

That would be terrible! Let them uppity workers feel like they're entitled to decent working conditions, a livable wage, health care, vacations some security in return for service and loyalty and the next thing you know they'll start thinking they as good as us. And them useless regulation about poisoning the air or water, theys puhlenty of air and water.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

Most of that post is a load of crap. How's that smelly "occupy" tent? I've never been in a country club. Nor has anyone I know. I've just had decent employers right here in the good ol' US of A. Actually, I'm between jobs right now (voluntarily, I quit to move to a different state).

BillGates_z
BillGates_z

You and everyone you know must have it swell at the country club but others, right here in the good ol' US of A, not so. Even so called white collar workers who actually have a job have lower salaries, shrinking cubicles, more unpaid hours, (hey" productivity" is up), less or no health care (or a plan that is too costly to afford). Maybe we need a white collar union. Meanwhile business leaders and politicians get frothy about every and any regulation regarding health and environment disguising plain greed as pro America or pro jobs or pro security.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

you are not reading what I said. Business friendly and looking at regulations does not mean support of slave labor, sweat-shops and environmental destruction or any of the other horrors you are mentioning. We have laws in place to take care of that sort of thing. We don't need unions anymore. They are just another useless bureaucratic layer that gets in the way. And like other useless bureaucratic layers, they exist to perpetuate themselves and increase their power. You want to join a union? Go ahead, but no one should be forced to join a union as a condition of accepting employment.

BillGates_z
BillGates_z

To quote you -"What would also help is a more business-friendly climate, maybe look at removing or streamlining regulations." Foremost among the regulations being objected to today are environmental protection, preventing companies from doing as they please. Carefully disguised as "Progress" it's doing things the same old way and "don't worry". The people who own or run those places don't have to worry 'cause they don't have to live where they poop on. It's swell you're in the catbird seat but if you took a look at what work was like before unions, you'd know that most of what you enjoy today is because a lot of people suffered and bled to help make it that way. Not to long ago workers were worse off than slaves 'cause you could work them to death and didn't have to feed them or care for them - just discard them and hire more. To companies it was "just business" - the same song they sing today and the same thing they would do again in a heartbeat if they could, and they are trying hard. When's the last time you had to work through lunch? No big deal right? Work any extra hours? Get paid for that time? Got a health plan? Paying more for it? Your pay go up same percentage? Your CEO get a raise?

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

you should actually read what I said before you snarkily reply. All of that is law today. I know they got that way largely due to unions in the past. I said nothing about poisoning the air and water. I don't even see how you got that from my post. Unions have largely out-lived their usefulness. Look at the behavior of the union-thugs such as SEIU and others and the whining cry-babies in Wisconsin when the governor made them actually pay a small amount towards their medical insurance (just as the rest of us do). I've worked non-union jobs all my life and I've never had any problems such as you describe.

BuckG
BuckG like.author.displayName 1 Like

I would like to be able to vote, and to view the results, but clicking on the voting box just brings up a CDW page; it doesn't allow me to choose or vote. Having said that, I will NEVER purchase a product from a company that has so little regard for the workers that are building their products. Their mis-use of the global community in order to boost profits is DISGUSTING, and a perfect example of everything that is wrong with capitalism today.

andrew232006
andrew232006

Do you investigate where all your products come from? Do you like chocolate?

Gisabun
Gisabun

Recently Apple CEO Tim Cook said he will not do business with any company that doesn't follow certain [their?] labour practices. Well, obviously there is a problem at Foxconn where one manager stated it was cheaper for some labour to slap on a sticker than automating it with machines [a CNN report]. Another one equated the works with animals. Has Cook even toured Foxconn? How does he know if his lackies are giving him truthful information or just telling him what he wants to know. Yes. We don't see Apple dropping Foxconn. After all, who'd make their gadgets? There is a problem when workers are getting pathetic salaries in bad working conditions while Apple's mark-up is 25% or more on what they sell. If Appl/re even thinks of getting those workers some extra money? Will they cut into their profits or jack up the price? I'd say the latter. The fanbois and fangurls will be Apple's gadgets no matter what the cost is because they liked hyped products. The petition won't make a different. They will still buy this stuff. Apple won't do anything because it will hurt the bottom line - profits and share price.

andrew232006
andrew232006 like.author.displayName 1 Like

I think apple will do the same as the chocolate industry, the diamond industry and almost all outsourced manufacturing. They'll ignore it and I don't think it will hurt their bottom line. We're still living in a world based on slavery, it is just moved to where we don't have to look at it.

garyleroy
garyleroy like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

The founder of Apple, (and I don't mean Woz) has always been known for his merciless treatment of employees, among those not blinded by thinking he was some sort of god. The China situation is somewhat different, but Apple's not the only one who has things manufactured there, so it's not a valid reason to boycott. I don't buy their products because of the above, and because of their elitist marketing strategy that they've used for many years, fooling their customers into thinking it somehow makes them a cut above the 'unwashed masses' of Windows-using dorks. "Think different". Really? You think different by buying what we tell you makes you different? People are so gullible, and Apple has always been there to take advantage of that. So it won't affect my buying decisions, that's already been done.

JSMc
JSMc

Title says it all

kevin
kevin

Where do you think that Dell was built you are using?

BobManGM
BobManGM

This particular partition makes no difference to anybody (I would even argue about the motivations of some of the people putting this together...). When WE start taking on the larger issues unilaterally, then WE can make a difference.

klulmer15
klulmer15 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 7 Like

I would gladly pay the extra $20.00 (or whatever) for an Apple product manufactured in the US. I believe a lot of other people would also. Apple would benefit from investing in the United States. There are states that are not unionized that would appreciate having the opportunity to work for a company such as Apple. Manufacturing companies need to bring to the jobs back to the good ole USA. As consumers, I know we will pay a little more. But in the long run, it'll be worth it.

magic8ball
magic8ball like.author.displayName 1 Like

Is that it will not cost 20 dollars more. It will be a few hundred dollars more. Why? The average wage for a worker at these plants is about 300 dollars per month. http://www.nytimes .com/2010/06/08/business/global/08wages.html (Article specifically mentions Foxconn, although it is acouple years old) How much would an American counterpart earn per month? Depending on the area even if they were paid minimum wage you are still looking at about 1200 per month (7 dollars an hour). No way Apple or any other company decreases profits to sell the item at roughly the same price when it can be made for essentially slave wages.

Jabo5360
Jabo5360

You mention 300.00 per month. As I am semi-retired and living in Asia I know this to be true. However wages are relevant to where they are living. For example 350.00 per month where I am living is actually a fairly decent wage. Though companies like Apple, Canon, Panasonic, Western Digital, Toshiba to name a few benefit largely by not having to pay any benefits, taxes etc.. But they do not have to comply with any environmental laws. You just have to drive around Southeast Asia to witness what the devastating effects of that are. In many parts of Asia and China you can not go outside without a mask on. Most of the rivers are so polluted you as an American would not even go near the water yet alone eat anything out of them. These companies advertise to us how eco friendly they are, and that may be true in the US but only because we have laws preventing them from dumping untreated waste into rivers, spewing all kinds of noxious gases into the air dumping all kinds of toxic waste into the garbage etc.. etc.. These countries have sacrificed their environments and people in the name of jobs and economic growth and are just now waking up to the fact of the environmental damage that has been done. The situation will only improve when and if these countries enact laws to also protect their environments and yes, also workers rights. When that happens it will be a much more level playing field and you will see many jobs come back home.

andrew232006
andrew232006

I think conditions are worse than that. Last year iphone workers got a raise to $293/month and that is with a 60 hour work week. http://www.tech-ex .net/2010/06/chinese-ipad-iphone-manufacturer-to.html Paying them a $7/hour wage would be a 523% increase

magic8ball
magic8ball

For the workers there http://www.nytimes .com/2012/01/26/business/ieconomy-apples-ipad-and-the-human-costs-for-workers-in-china.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

magic8ball
magic8ball

A 40 hour work week. Yeah with a 60 hour week that's about 500 percent more and thats not counting overtime that would have to paid here in the US. I think conditions are worse as you stated. All in all an ipad costs Apple about 325 bucks. http://www.isuppli .com/teardowns/news/pages/ipad-2-carries-bill-of-materials-of-$326-60-ihs-isuppli-teardown-analysis-shows.aspx http://www.manufacturingdigital .com/news_archive/tags/apple/apple-ipad-2-manufacturing-costs-and-how-its-made Add 10 dollars in manufacturing costs, which I assume to be labor, overhead, and transportation costs, and making it here would be alot more than 10 bucks. The price of components isn't going to change wildy so the only variable left is the manufacturing costs. Add that plus the markup to that and I see it costing 100 to 150 more than what it does now if it were made in the US. Then again, I don't own any Apple products other than an ipod shuffle that was a door prize.

rhonin
rhonin like.author.displayName 1 Like

This was a hot topic a few months ago. The roadblock is not wages affecting cost (would add about $65 to an iPad) but the regulations and local laws that would impede or prevent bringing any faility like this on line in the short to mid term. This also significantly impacts the ability of said facility from being nimble and able to execute last minute changes.

magic8ball
magic8ball like.author.displayName 1 Like

Don't get me wrong, I buy US whenever I can, and have been looking for an air compressor (I know different product, different regulations) and all the US ones I have found are at least 200 bucks more for a comparable featured model. If it truly is being blocked by government red tape, links would be nice to support your argument, then the only solution to that is to vote those out that support such regulations and red tape and vote those in that support bringing such factories here. I have a hard time believing that a 300 percent increase in their employee wages would only drive the price of an ipad up 65 bucks.

Jabo5360
Jabo5360 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

To heck with improving the conditions abroad, march and petition to bring the jobs back here. Apple currently employs aprox. 43,000 in the USA. Between manufacturing, assembly and other subcontractors it has an overseas foot print of aprox. 750,000 jobs. Bless Steve Jobs for his innovations, but he himself said to Pres. Obama "those jobs aren't coming back here". It's time for the public to prove him wrong.

BillGates_z
BillGates_z like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Probably a lot of the heat Apple is taking is because they are such smug self righteous assholes. So when it turns out the self named "superior" (if overpriced and proprietary) products made of the "best" materials ('cause we've read how Steve would through a tantrum else wise) turn out to be made by abused workers, well ... (Steve, is it getting hot down there?)

Brad Morrison
Brad Morrison

There may be some minor, inexpensive [for Apple] concessions, but like other models today that don't work very well but we tolerate their failings because we like the end result -- The Apple/Foxconn connection will stay live. It seems like a long shot to try to force Apple to change the way Foxconn operates. Besides, Apple has no debt and no worries about its market share. It's valuable to note that Foxconn has several other high-profile/profit customers, e.g., Amazon (Kindle), Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft (PS3, Wii, Xbox). The full list of major customers is Acer, Amazon, Apple, ASRock, Asus, Barnes & Noble, Cisco, Dell, EVGA, HP, Intel, IBM, Lenovo, Microsoft, MSI, Motorola, Netgear, Nintendo, Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Sony Ericsson, and Vizio. Further, Foxconn has factories in the Czech Republic in addition to the sites in China.

sissy sue
sissy sue like.author.displayName 1 Like

I'd be more indignant with Apple if it were the only company involved.

rhonin
rhonin

Apple, being one of if not the biggest in this arena, if this can force changes then the rest or majority of other companies who use the same or similar facilities will also adopt the change.

Gisabun
Gisabun like.author.displayName 1 Like

Those who petition are probably already have Apple gadgets and don't want to dump them. Obviously boycotting Apple would be out of the question for fanbois and fangurls. I suspect some don't give a damn anyways who makes their toys.