More Than 250,000 People Petition Apple For Better Conditions At iPhone Factory

Foxconn is the world’s largest electronics manufacturing company, assembling devices for just about every major company, from Apple to Microsoft to Sony to Nintendo. It has come under fire in recent years, following reports of poor working conditions and employee suicides. Concerned that their favorite products might be being produced in such an unfriendly environment, more than 250,000 Apple users have signed two petitions asking that company to improve conditions at Foxconn.

The larger of the two petitions, on Change.org, reads in part:

Last week’s This American Life shined a spotlight on the working conditions in the Chinese factories where iPhones are made. Just one example of the hardships there: the men and women in these factories work very long days spent repeating the same motions over and over, which creates amped-up carpal tunnel syndrome in their wrists and hands. This often results in them losing the use of their hands for the rest of their lives. This condition could be easily prevented if the workers were rotated through different positions in the factory, but they are not. Why? Because there are no labor laws in China to protect these people.

Here’s the thing: you’re Apple. You’re supposed to think different. I want to continue to use and love the products you make, because they’re changing the world, and have already changed my life. But I also want to know that when I buy products from you, it’s not at the cost of horrible human suffering.

That petition makes two requests. First, that Apple release a worker protection strategy for new product releases, which is apparently when Foxconn experiences a spike in worker injuries and suicides.

Second, that Apple publishes the results of the Fair Labor Association’s monitoring of its suppliers, “including the NAMES of the suppliers found to have violations and WHAT those violations are, so that there is transparency around the monitoring effort.”

The other petition, posted on SumOfUs.org, reads:

Right now we have a huge opportunity as ethical consumers: The launch of the iPhone 5 later this year will be new Apple CEO Tim Cook’s first big product rollout, and he can’t afford for anything to go wrong — including negative publicity around how Apple’s suppliers treat their workers. That’s why we’re launching a campaign this week to get Apple to overhaul the way its suppliers treat their workers in time for the launch of the iPhone 5.

Foxconn has more than a dozen factories in China, along with facilities in Mexico, Brazil, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and India. In addition to the iPhone and iPad, the company manufactures all the major gaming consoles, along with many brands of computers and mobile phones.

[via Kotaku]

Comments

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  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Foxconn assembles Xboxes too…

    Just Saiyan.

    • rmorin says:

      From the post:

      In addition to the iPhone and iPad, the company manufactures all the major gaming consoles, along with many brands of computers and mobile phones.

      ??

      • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

        Well that’s embarrassing… still, these news articles all seem to gravitate back towards Apple, for some reason or another.

    • Nighthawke says:

      And lots of parts for Dells and HP’s too.

      Foxconn makes logic boards, power supplies and other components for larger companies in the business of selling cheap computers..

    • tinyhands says:

      There are two points. One, that Apple is supposed to be better than this. Two, that Apple is a major customer and if they demanded change, they’d get it.

      PS: The ploural of XBox is “XBoxen”

      • Actionable Mango says:

        So what? Why isn’t the petition addressed to all major manufacturers?

        This petition basically says we demand ours Mac be made humanely but we don’t give a shit how many people suffer or die making the Dell monitor attached to it.

        • ungeheier says:

          That’s because us Apple Fanboys care about this stuff.

          Lets see Dell owners care about this… ;)

          • Coffee says:

            Careful…your smug is reaching toxic levels. It’s not Apple users that suddenly broke this story; it’s tech and mainstream news outlets. They single out Apple because of the obviously hypocritical disparity between their ostensibly progressive image and the reality of the working conditions at Foxconn. It’s a better story.

          • Round-Eye §ñ‰∫∫„ÅØ„Ç≥„É≥„Çπ„Éû„É™„ÉÉ„Çπ„Éà„ÅåÂ•Ω„Åç„Åß„Åô„ÄÇ says:

            Actually, I’d say it’s the Apple haters that are making a bigger issue of this than the fanboys. Anti-Apple folks love to find ways to vilify Apple whether warranted or not.

        • booboloo says:

          Yep thats the problem, this fixation on apple comes out of a different kind of yuppy guilt, which is why they ignore the facts of the situation.

          In any case apple isn’t responsible, in such countries the only authority is the government. You do business with them, or you go out of business at this point.

        • pot_roast says:

          It’s not addressed to everyone else (and ones that are likely worse) because targeting Acer and Dell/etc doesn’t get as much press as attacking Apple.

          Basically, this “petition” is just blowing hot air. It’s useless.

      • Jawaka says:

        Why is it Apple’s responsibility to tell another company how they’re supposed to treat their employees? Oh that’s right, because Apple has the deeper pockets.

        • tinyhands says:

          Fair enough. It’s EVERYONE’S responsibility to tell any abusive employer to stop treating their employees poorly. They’re called human f’ing beings, so you can either be one too and demand Apple help stop it, or you can turn and look the other way.

  2. deathbecomesme says:

    That headline should read “Only* 250K people petition”. With all the products they make we should all be ashamed of their working conditions. (gets back on his xbox to play BF3)

  3. sir_eccles says:

    Or vote with your wallets and stop buying Apple (or any other company) products when you don’t agree with their policies or ethics.

    • Battlehork says:

      I’m pretty sure you’d have to move to a commune to do that by now.

      • sir_eccles says:

        Yeah. But I had a word with my crack dealer about the working conditions of his Colombian suppliers and he promised me they would do something about it.

    • DariusC says:

      You wanna live amish? I didn’t think so.

    • tbax929 says:

      Please point me to a supplier of these gadgets that doesn’t utilize Foxconn or a similar company. I’d be thrilled to buy from them.

    • TasteyCat says:

      Yep. Nobody cares about online petitions. Speak with your wallet, or live with it and quit whining.

    • booboloo says:

      Yes that will be smart, buy something like samsung or htc, that way even american engineers will be out of a job.

  4. Cat says:

    How many of these 250,000 have ever visited a Foxconn factory?
    3?
    Yea, I thought so.

    These people have no idea what they’re talking about.

    (Yes, I suppose I should put a /s tag here for the dim bulbs)

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      “How many of these 250,000 have ever visited a Foxconn factory?”

      Or China in general. There’s a reason why Foxconn has a million employees.

  5. KPS2010 says:

    I wonder why all these disgruntled employees not just sabotage the assembly line and quality control. Not gonna pay me? F U I’m only give 40% effort while I work with these crappy wages. If enough of them stop caring Apples product will be just like any other goods from China cheap and crappy..

    • tinyhands says:

      It’s China. They can put your whole family, friends, neighbors, and pets in front of a firing squad for that.

      • humphrmi says:

        Well, sort of.

        Foxconn is not state owned, in fact its ownership is in Taiwan, which China considers a rogue break-off.

        I’ve got to find them, but I remember reading various articles that the Chinese government is just as pi$$ed off about this as everybody else; they’ve threatened Foxconn several times with sanctions and shut downs if they don’t improve conditions in their plants.

        Although of course Foxconn pays a lot of taxes to China, so China isn’t about to shut them down. But I don’t think the Chinese are going to be the ones to pull the trigger if the workers revolt.

    • Fast Eddie Eats Bagels says:

      This is what the DMV employees do.

    • DubbaEwwTeeEff says:

      Tinyhands’ reply sounds exaggerated but there’s a lot of truth in it. You can be jailed for joining a union in China, and actions like strikes, work slow-downs and sabotage only work if they’re done on a large scale. As it is, anyone trying that individually would be fired and replaced by some other desperate individual. There are a LOT of those in China.

      Without some kind of labor protection – or at least the ability to organize – the labor market starts to look suspiciously like factory farming. The only difference is that if one of their “animals” (to quote Terry Gou, CEO of Foxconn’s parent company) dies or can no longer produce, there’s no up-front cost to replace them.

  6. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    The question I would ask is, if Apple does nothing, will these people still buy the next iThing they puke out onto the market?

    The answer is yes.

    • j2.718ff says:

      Probably true. But there might be some people who were previously on the fence of what product to buy next (iPhone vs. Android, etc) that could be swayed by a gesture like this.

      I can’t even remember the last time I’ve shopped at JCPenny, but after the recent “Million Moms” protesting against them allowing Ellen as a spokesperson, I’ll be checking them out first next time I need some new clothes.

      • caradrake says:

        I don’t know if being swayed to Android is any better. Don’t their electronic parts get made by Foxconn as well?

        • RayanneGraff says:

          Android isn’t a single brand, it’s an operating system. Phones of all makes & models run it, so you’ll just have to do some research on which manufacturers are affiliated with foxconn.

          • caradrake says:

            Right. I guess I mean, it’s pretty damned hard to find anything not tarnished by foxconn – and if it’s made by another company, chances are it’s nearly as bad.

            I’d be all for buying for a company that treats their workers like fellow humans.

  7. scoutermac says:

    How about if these jobs come back to the US.

    • Cat says:

      Because you won’t work under these conditions for that pay.

      You might even want (GASP!) BENEFITS!!!

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Hey, how many U.S. companies can boast they have suicide prevention nets at their plants?

        Zero?

        I thought so.

        • humphrmi says:

          Yeah but the only industry in America that has ever been substantially impacted by employees jumping out of windows is Investment Banking…

    • Quixiotic... Yea it's a typo (‚ïج∞‚ñ°¬∞Ôºâ‚ïØÂΩ°‚îÅ‚îª says:

      Because your iDevice will double in price.

    • billybob9280 says:

      Why not use google and found out why that would be impossible? Just a thought.

    • jojo319 says:

      I read somewhere recently that supposedly it would take 9 months to get enough qualified people for the UPPER technical jobs, where in China that same search took 2 weeks. The US is NOT towards the top in terms of technically skilled people. Quite simply, our education system sucks, and has for years when compared to almost every other industrialized nation. Also, all of the components are geographically close, so that cuts costs drastically as well.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      Sure. If you don’t mind paying $1,000 for what was a $300 laptop.

      And/or if you don’t mind working for wages that requires 3 generations of your family to live in the same small house in order to pay the bills.

    • booboloo says:

      They won’t come back. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/business/apple-america-and-a-squeezed-middle-class.html?_r=2 read that article on it from the new york times. you don’t have the infrastructure of manufacturing anymore, anyways the environmental studies that would take 6 months alone in the us whereas in china they would have completed the factory already. you don’t build manufacturing in a day, no more than anyone can build silicon valley in a day. As the article says we also lack the expertise, they can hire thousands of engineers to build the factories, we create some of the best engineers out there at our elite colleges but that isn’t enough, you need the rest to design the production facilities and the rest, and we don’t have that.

  8. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    … Out of the 250 million who purchase Apple products who could care less about who makes or where they are made, just that they have one in their hands ASAP.

  9. Coffee says:

    Foxconn is not the only factory that has these conditions, nor are they the worst out there. I’m not a big Apple apologist – I don’t even buy their products – but I think people need to realize that in sending internal auditors to Foxconn to review worker conditions, they’re already being more proactive than many companies that use its services.

    I think the petition is a nice gesture, but it’s just plugging one whole in an already-leaky dyke. Working conditions like this are the norm in Chinese factories. If companies and consumers really want to act humanely, they need to get the production chain out of China.

    • Cat says:

      Also:

      China is not the only place that has sucky conditions. One of the worst for sure, but the others are pretty close to the bottom of the dung heap also.

      • Coffee says:

        Yeah…I was inclined to say “back to America”, but I don’t know whether that’s feasible. People have bleeding hearts when they hear these stories, but does Apple want to risk finding out whether they have the faith of their conviction when customers go to a store and see a $1,200 ipad sitting next to a $600 Asus tablet with identical specs?

    • StarKillerX says:

      Yes, because wiping out jobs completely so people have no livelihood at all is much better then trying to improve their working conditions.

      • Coffee says:

        Are you saying that it would be wrong for an American company to pull out of a country with unethical working conditions and relocate somewhere else with better conditions, where they would employ just as many people, if not more (because of reduced hours/worker)? How does that make sense? Would you object if the new manufacturing facility were opened in Indiana?

  10. ScandalMgr says:

    The golden rule dictates that Capital seek the lowest cost to build its products, so there are two divergent opportunities here:

    1. Inflation in China causes workers strikes because they cannot afford to work on a subsistence wage, which the manufacturer agrees to, driving up costs to distributors.
    2. Populist outsiders touting petitions somehow shame Chinese manufacturers into a cost increase, resulting in Apple, uSoft, etc, choosing a different, cheaper manufacturer where conditions are even worse, and probably not the USA (think Indiana!).
    3. Somehow, the collective conscious recognizes worker apartheid, and divests by not purchasing products except those made by a collective of empowered employees with great benefits.

    I am betting on #1.

    • ScandalMgr says:

      Umm, sorry, I had an un- Rick Perry moment there and actually remembered #3.

    • booboloo says:

      Well, another consideration is that westerners trying to do charity wages for chinese are actually solidifying power for the unelected chinese government. Everything in that country is their responsibility as they have absolute power. Why are yuppies trying to solve an unelected governments problems, their people should be unhappy and be driven to change that system.

  11. jojo319 says:

    Headline should read “More Than 250,000 People Petition Apple For Higher Priced iPhones and iPads”

  12. aleck says:

    Oh, these youngsters are so cute and naive.

    The petition says “Apple is sitting on $100 Billion in cash.. All Apple has to do is demand it, and it‚Äôll happen”. The poor working conditions is the reason they are sitting on a pile of cash. It is not a matter of asking, it is a matter of producing the same IPhone at a higher price. Either the customers will have to pay more, or Apple would have to be satisfied with “only” $50 Billion in cash. Neither are likely to happen. Don’t ask, stop buying the crap you don’t agree with.

    • humphrmi says:

      Yeah, the implication there is that Apple should spend some of it’s billions of cash to make the working conditions better.

      HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

      • booboloo says:

        Yep, and china is sitting on 3 trillion in reserves.

        Ignorant yuppies still feel they need charity though, just perverse.

    • Round-Eye §ñ‰∫∫„ÅØ„Ç≥„É≥„Çπ„Éû„É™„ÉÉ„Çπ„Éà„ÅåÂ•Ω„Åç„Åß„Åô„ÄÇ says:

      Remember, today’s youth (of which I’m a part and, by and large, embarrassed of) don’t realize that it’s really easy to be super altruistic and “globally conscious” and blah blah blah help others blah blah everyone should live like me blah until it affects them personally. I’m curious to know how many people signing this petition, or the people who chartered it, would continue to buy ANY of the products Foxconn makes (Apple is but one of many customers) if the price were to be increased by 50% or more as a result of bettering the working conditions.

      • booboloo says:

        I’m just curious how many of these folks would be willing to pay a few dollars more at their mcdonalds or walmart or starbucks so they could pay their fellow americans a living wage.

        This fixation on chinese workers comes with a whole lot of hypocrisy.

    • booboloo says:

      Well, americans quick to point fingers out of some kind of strange guilt make themselves look foolish when they speak out of ignorance;)

      Apple has some cash, it allows it to invest in new technologies and manufacturing to stay in the game, and employ the few american jobs that are still safe from export.

      Apple has a little cash. China has 3 trillion in cash reserves.

      So who should we feel sorry for again?

      China has 3 trillion, americans have 45 million on food stamps.

      Yuppy americans out of perverse guilt spill their tears over the chinese. How sick is that?

      Chinese government has absolute power…with that comes absolute responsibility. The can steal from google, they can do what they like. Westerners demanding charity for china have a ignorant perspective.

  13. dwtomek says:

    But if companies are required to treat their employees like human beings on a global level, how will companies continue to offshore their production and maintain ludicrous executive pay levels that slave labor allows for? Who will think of the 1%? Who?!

  14. OSAM says:

    Fruitless effort: It’s not Apple they should be petitioning but FoxConn

  15. tinmanx says:

    Another useless petition. Apple makes too much money to care. Their goal is to make more money for their shareholders, period.

  16. zantafio says:

    and not a word about this on macrumors.com !

  17. u1itn0w2day says:

    This has been going on for DECADES. Many of these signers have been aware of conditions like these for decades. But it took a crappy economy to get many yuppy scum tech using hipsters working at lower paid crappier jobs to appreciate what many go through to make money all over the world.

    I just wish Jobs has lived longed enough to see the samekind of scrutiny Phil Nike got for his factories in the 1990s. Stevie was held to a different standard it seems.

  18. Cicadymn says:

    “More than 250,000 will either be ignored or given lip service”

    Just like the last time when we had a suicide a day over there.

  19. smartmuffin says:

    Headline should read “More than 250,000 People Petition Apple to Charge Higher Prices”

  20. libgeek says:

    Those conditions are exactly why Apple–and so many other companies–use Foxconn. From the NYTimes article last month:

    “Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone‚Äôs screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

    A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company‚Äôs dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day”

    They say that like it’s a wonderful thing. Isn’t it great that we can disrupt the lives of 8,000 workers on a whim? Since they basically live in the factory, we can do whatever we want with them! And we only have to give them a cookie for breakfast. All so someone’s shiny piece of plastic is even shinier.

    • humphrmi says:

      Yeah the original article was actually touting the ingenuity of the foreman for getting that done. Unbelievable.

    • booboloo says:

      You might actually consider those workers are there because its still better than being poor on a farm.

      Their willingness to get up to change their production line in a jiffy means they have jobs that will give them savings enough to buy homes when they go home.

      You might consider the fact that mcjobs in america don’t even give you that prospect for the sacrifice. 45 million americans on food stamps. Look at yourself before pointing fingers abroad.

      • humphrmi says:

        “Their willingness to get up to change their production line in a jiffy means they have jobs that will give them savings enough to buy homes when they go home.”

        Cite sources, please

  21. spittingangels says:

    In summary:

    Dear Apple,

    Please use your mega-billions to put put yourself at a competitive disadvantage by trying to change the conditions of workers not directly employed by you, who are already better off by not dying of starvation in mainland China.

    ——————–
    Although I do agree workers of these factory could be treated better (for that matter, all employees everywhere could always be treated better, regardless where or how they work) I honestly feel this type of petition is misdirected.

    The letters should be addressed to Foxconn.

    Apple is already doing more than the vast majority of other companies using Chinese labor yet Apple is still held to a much higher standard because they are the big dog and get more negative press over it. If people are insisting on laying the blame at the feet of Apple and not Foxconn, then they need to also lay the blame on Acer, Dell, Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, et al.

    Foxconn continues to adhere to the byline that they comply with all Chinese government regulations. That very well may be true and indicates that real change needs to come from the Chinese government to better protect their people. Apple may be the biggest tech company on the planet right now but that doesn’t mean they wield any influence on a foreign government. If they could, we might as well ask Apple to broker world peace.

    The whole thing is blown out of proportion. We’re equating these conditions with our first world perspective but the reality is that many of these workers are getting steady employment and room and board when the alternative is squandering away their lives in mud huts with proper health care and employment alternatives.

    Foxconn is so big that if you have any sort of name brand electronic devices, odds are that Foxconn has a hand in making it and it’s rumored that Foxconn oftens pays off government officials to get around existing government regulations anyway. It’s all a puppet show.

    I really wish people would stop making this and Apple issue and treat for what it really is, a Foxconn and Chinese industry issue.

    • booboloo says:

      yup bingo, these are chinese workers, many of which will save up enough money to buy a house when they go home to their village.

      how many mcjobbers in america can say that.

      many ignorant westerners just are getting on their high horses over this because they don’t view chinese people as equals, and thus view them as children, with diminished responsibility. the number of millionaires in china are soaring, cities being built at incredible rates, number of cars being sold to chinese is incredible, yet 45 million americans are on food stamps, and some lefty yuppies feeling guilty about their lifestyle find stupid outlets like this griefing over apple, it is kind of shameful.

  22. Bionic Data Drop says:

    Where’s the petition for worse conditions at the iPhone factory? I’d like my Apple products to be a little cheaper.

  23. cornstalker says:

    For all you yuppies who like your “hand-made” goods… here they are.

  24. SteveHolt says:

    If you have something made by Foxconn, your name should be on that petition,

  25. booboloo says:

    I’m sorry this is ridiculous, the conditions in china are the responsibility of the chinese government alone, they have absolute power, enough to drive google out and steal their technology, yet westerners without jobs and 45 million on food stamps are supposed to be responsible for the chinese workers? This is patronizing frankly, there are countless millionaires in china, they have the money, I’m sure many westerners have distorted ideas about china and thus think of them as less than equal and thus less responsible for their own actions, but that is not right.

    Anyways picking on apple..one of the few companies to actually keep any jobs..even if they are just the engineering type in america is stupid. Every other company you buy electronics from builds them in china anyways, if you buy samsung you aren’t even paying for american engineering.

  26. areaman says:

    Here’s the thing: you’re Apple. You’re supposed to think different. I want to continue to use and love the products you make, because they’re changing the world, and have already changed my life. But I also want to know that when I buy products from you, it’s not at the cost of horrible human suffering.

    To Steve Jobs think different in this context is that sweat in sweat shops are good.

  27. crazydavythe1st says:

    Well supposedly Foxconn is on track to replace a significant portion of its workforce with automated machinary/robots within the next few years. Probably not the most desirable method of getting rid of workplace abuses, but you know….progress!

    /s

  28. gman863 says:

    Foxconn Response:

    Ugly American yuppie buyer bitch too much! Shut piehole and enjoy low price while employees have no-so-happy ending!

    • Libertas says:

      You mean:

      Ugry Amelican yuppie buyer bitch too maach! Shut piehole and enjoy low plice while emproyees have no-so-happy ending!

  29. blueman says:

    “And in return, we’ll be more than happy to pay $1,500 for an iPad.”

    Oh, that wasn’t in the petition???

  30. Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

    250,000 spend two minutes signing an online petition, and don’t really do much to further the cause. But in return, they feel good about themselves for the next twelve hours thinking they accomplished something.

  31. TheCorporateGeek Says Common Sense Is The Key says:

    It’s China people, we can’t tell China what to do. Sorry that some of these holier than thou people think they can change the world because of perceived “injustices” in other parts of the world. They can’t, they only serve to look like fools in the end.

    • blueman says:

      You’re right, economic sanctions, refusal to do business with dictators, etc., have never had any effect on a foreign country’s economy. Like Cuba, or North Korea, or…

  32. SWILK3RS says:

    Or people could ACTUALLY do something about this problem and just stop buying Apple products if they are unhappy with this. At Foxconn, up to 40% of production is just Apple products for all of those “Foxconn assembles XBoxes too” people.

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