Tag Archives: sumofus

Were Workers Forced To Violate Chinese Labor Laws To Make The New iPad? [Interview]

Watchdog group SumOfUs has launched a new petition asking Apple to prove that workers at Foxconn factories in China weren’t subject to illegal overtime to make the iPad 3.

Specifically, they’re looking for Apple to turn over individual worker hours from November 2011-February 2012 to prove they’re not violating China’s labor laws which prohibit more than 36 hours of overtime per month.

Cult of Mac talked to SumOfUs founder Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman about what the group hopes to achieve with this latest petition, launched the morning of the iPad event as of this writing reached 41,500 of its 50,000 signature goal.

CoM: So you just issued another petition about Apple and its labor policies, have you had any reaction from them?

Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman: No.

CoM: What do you hope to achieve with this petition?

TSK: As an iPhone user and Mac user, I hope that they will release this data and that workers were not forced to violate labor laws in China to make the new iPad.

CoM: But you’re not calling for a consumer boycott, correct?

TSK: There are a lot of things short of a boycott that we can do, though I wouldn’t rule it out in the long term. These company changes do take some time, they don’t happen overnight.

CoM: What do you think those worker records would show, if they were made public?

TSK: Frankly, I would be very surprised if the iPad workers weren’t forced to work illegal overtime to get these products on the shelves in March.

If they were made public, it would serve as a wake-up call for a lot of people. Apple can’t require the kind of turnaround time from suppliers who have those tiny profit margins and still expect them them to respect labor laws.

Chinese law states 36 hours a month of overtime, but for many people it’s more like 80 hours – sometimes it’s hard to tell because they can massage the data with clock-in times, etc. There have been cases of workers dropping dead from exhaustion

CoM: With the FLA audit, Apple is doing more than other global electronics companies who all make their products at Foxconn. But you think it’s not enough?

TSK: Apple really has to take responsibility for how its products are made.

If Apple is serious about worker’s rights, showing the time cards is not a research project that takes three months to obtain or requires an audit or anything. It’s computer data that’s readily available…

The issue is really cut and dry: Apple’s suppliers should be following local laws. It’s not the only issue surrounding labor, but this should be a red flag for people…

CoM: So I take it you won’t be lining up to get the new iPad then?

TSK: (Laughs.) It’s possible I’ll be next to the line outside the Apple store handing out flyers. It’s unfortunate, it sounds like a great product, but I don’t feel comfortable being complicit in the way it was made…

More from Cult of Mac:

These Raging Grannies Shake It Outside The Apple Store For Worker’s Rights [Interview]

Raging Grannies protest outside the Palo Alto store Feb. 13

If you happen by the Palo Alto Apple Store Monday afternoon, that group of elderly women dressed in white dancing the robot to techno music on the sidewalk aren’t some funky flashmob.

They’re Raging Grannies, and they’re are mad as hell about worker conditions in China where Apple products are made.

Galvanized by a recent Mike Daisey story on NPR about Foxconn, they’re staging monthly protests outside the Palo Alto Apple store. They’ll be on the sidewalk grooving to bring more attention to Apple’s labor policies in China at 3 p.m. on March 12.

Cult of Mac talked to Raging Grannie Ruth Robertson, 59, about why the mad matriarchs will continue to rile things up. The dozen or so “grannies” (members aren’t necessarily mothers or grandmothers, they just need to embrace the combative spirit) range in age from 59 to 94. This isn’t the first tech-related protest of the San Francisco Bay Area Action League of the international activist group; they also brought some old-school chants to a protest on war-mongering video games.

Cult of Mac: Why target the Palo Alto store?

Ruth Robertson: It’s our local store, our members live from San Francisco to San Jose, and we felt it was the right place to make a point about the Mac worship and the Steve Jobs worship in this area.

When Jobs died, bless his heart, they would’ve flown every flag at half mast if they could have. Storefronts had his picture draped in black, you’d have thought this guy was a god…

I won’t deny that he was a genius, but for all his genius, he was not necessarily a good person. And people who live around here kind of know that. His daughter, the one he didn’t want to recognize, went to school with our kids…We know he shouldn’t be praised like Gandhi and yet he was…

We also knew there were bad things behind how these products are made, but Daisey’s piece really brought home the facts…We knew it was bad, we just didn’t have the details – like former workers not being able to use their hands from repetitive motion injuries – until that story.

CoM: In the video of the February protest (see above), a guy walks right past the Raging Grannies – does that happen often?

RR: That’s not surprising at all, most people just don’t want to get involved, they don’t want to hear about it, they don’t want to think about it. Those same people often go across street and watch because they want to know what’s going on. If they do pass by, we try to give them a handout to take with them and read later. It’s not unusual that people ignore us…At an Apple store, they’re playing with the toys, they don’t want to hear about it…

CoM: So why do you keep doing it?

RR: We do get the attention of some people…We also get on TV and reach more people that way. The last time the story of the day was about Apple stock hitting $500 a share, but a small part of that was “here’s the negative side.” [Our protest] was maybe 20 seconds in a two-minute news report, but we try to bring some balance to a story, so it’s not this rah-rah Apple fest.

CoM: Protest groups like SumOfUs have said they own Apple products and aren’t planning to boycott the company, do you feel the same? Or is a consumer boycott in the works?

RR: A dozen grannies calling for a boycott would be ineffective. Those of us who have Apple products, including myself, like them except we do feel there’s a great deal of planned obsolescence…

Personally, I think the products Apple makes are very exciting. I don’t wait in line or jump up and down with excitement to get them or anything, but when everyone is using them, you have to keep up. I had a job where I needed to use apps, so in order to work you need to have these things. That’s when I upgrade.
A boycott wouldn’t be possible because we live in the modern world.

CoM: What outcome do you hope for?

RR: There won’t be a single outcome, we want to keep visibility on the issue. Here’s the thing: Apple is pretty arrogant, they know if we have a little protest and get some press they’ll have more press too. We’re happy to be the other side of the Apple story. We’re going to be around on this issue on a regular day when people are thinking about buying another Apple product…We want to keep the issue visible and, you know, in a way we like being a thorn in Apple’s side…

CoM: Has Apple responded?

RR: They’re keeping an eye on us. We gave a head’s up to the press the day before a protest, so Apple sent a young spokeswoman to manage the scene. When we arrived, there were two TV stations and she was already talking to the cameramen, trying to do damage control…

If they have to spend a little time and a little money getting a spokesperson on the scene, that’s good. They’re a huge company and we’re a dozen older women. We’re not going to go inside or scream and yell, we’re being legal, staying on the sidewalk. We want to keep forcing them to address the issue…

Apple is one of the world’s most valuable companies, if they can’t do the right thing, who can?

Consumer Group Dogs Apple At Shareholder’s Meeting

Protesters at Apple headquarters in Cupertino. Image credit: Ted Smith.

A small but determined group of protesters from consumer watchdog group SumOfUs gathered at Apple headquarters in Cupertino and headed inside the shareholder’s meeting to ask questions about working conditions at Foxconn.

SumOfUs in Cupertino. Image credit: Ted Smith.

Chanting “I want an ethical iPhone,” organizers say about 30 people total convened at the Cupertino campus.  SumOfUs member Melissa Byrne told Cult of Mac that some of them were inside the meeting with the intent of pressing Tim Cook for answers about conditions in Chinese factories.

Byrne, speaking from an iPhone, told Cult of Mac that she doesn’t think the group will call for a consumer boycott of Apple devices.

“I don’t think it will come to that, we have to work with Apple for change,” she said.

SumOfUs stationed outside Apple headquarters this morning to deliver a letter they say is a direct appeal from ex-factory workers in China for better working conditions. The letter cast a shadow over an already solemn annual shareholder’s meeting, the first one since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ death in October.

In the letter translated from Chinese, Guo Rui-Qiang and Jia Jing-Chuan are said to be two former workers suffering from permanent nerve damage from the chemical solution used to clean scores of iPhone screens. In it, they call for “We want to see a strict corporate social responsibility and reform of the audit system to prevent similar tragedies in the future.”

Those SumOfUs iPhone costumes are getting a workout: on Feb. 9 they helped deliver a petition to San Francisco’s Apple store to protest Foxconn conditions.

Although Apple is just one of the global consumer electronics companies who build gadgets at Foxconn, the Cupertino company has become mired in pubic relations quicksand despite efforts to become more transparent about how their must-have devices are made.

Groups like SumOfUs have said that Apple’s joining the Fair Labor Association and paying for an audit are “white washing” labor problems there. SumOfUs founder Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman likened the effort to the “fox guarding the hen house.”

Where are the iPhone-clad protesters headed next?

“We won’t stop until there’s an ethical iPhone,” Byrne said.

More from Cult of Mac:

Injured iPhone workers to petition Apple at shareholder meeting

Shareholder meetings in normal circumstances are rather boring affairs for those not interested in the nuances of corporate governance. But when Apple holds its annual meeting on Thursday, there will be issues besides election of board members and potential dividends on people’s minds.

Two former iPhone factory workers in China, who were critically injured at Apple supplier Wintek’s plant in 2009, are looking to take advantage of Apple’s yearly meeting by attracting attention to the conditions at factories where Apple’s most important products are assembled.

SumOfUs.org is distributing a petition from Gou Rui-qiang and Jia Jing-chuan, both of whom suffered nerve damage from using n-hexane, a toxic chemical, to clean iPhone screens at the factory. One hundred and thirty-five of their colleagues also reported being sickened. Apple no longer allows the chemical to be used, and Wintek reportedly compensated some of the medical treatment, but Gou and Jia want Apple to pay up.

“We have been pressuring Apple, and its new CEO Tim Cook, for years to compensate those of us who were injured working for them, and demanding reform of working conditions at their Chinese factories so that their workers don’t suffer like we do. Now we need your help as customers or potential customers of Apple,” the petition reads.

The goal of the petition, which has 84,000 signatures so far, is to get a total of 100,000 names before delivering it to CEO Tim Cook at the shareholder meeting on Thursday.

There has never been such intense scrutiny of the people who build Apple’s products or the places where they work as now. SumOfUs is the same group that helped back the original petition calling for the manufacturing of “an ethical iPhone,” which brought further attention to the plight of workers in Apple factories in China brought to light by the New York Times last month. SumOfUs and Change.org delivered thousands of signatures to some Apple locations earlier this month. Shortly thereafter Apple announced the Fair Labor Association would be inspecting its third-party manufacturing plants in China.

The investigations began last week, with the head of the FLA saying plublicly that it has found “tons of issues” at Foxconn plants. Apple also arranged for ABC News to get exclusive access to its factories. The Verge has a good roundup of what few new things were revealed by ABC’s tour. Perhaps not too surprisingly, the head FLA auditor told ABC it expected Foxconn to “put on a show” for FLA auditors and the cameras.

Apple’s shareholder meeting, the first for Cook in his official capacity as CEO, takes place at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Thursday at 10 a.m. PT.

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Apple Store Employee Joins Foxconn Worker Abuse Protest In San Francisco

The protest at Apple's San Francisco store, via Cory Moll.

Tourists wandering into Apple Stores in six cities around the globe found themselves in the middle of a media storm about the Cupertino company’s labor policies in China.

Members of two protests groups, who say they represent Apple customers, delivered petitions they claim are 245,000 signatures strong. Change.org and SumOfUs delivered petitions  to Apple Stores today in Washington, DC, New York, San Francisco, London, Sydney and Bangalore.

Though the San Francisco protest appears as tiny as the one in New York, it did have one participant of note: Apple retail worker Cory Moll, who works at the downtown store.


“I was there to show solidarity,” Moll told Cult of Mac. He also wanted to “get my name behind that effort as well as the name of the Apple Retail Workers Union… though the issues we’re facing are a far cry from what the workers in China face.”

Moll, who, according to his LinkedIn profile,  has worked at Apple since October 2007, also heads up an organization called the Apple Retail Workers Union. The organization, founded in May 2011, aims to better working conditions at Apple Stores.

Moll’s photos of the protest, some of the first to surface on Twitter, show a few of the petition organizers surrounded by media. The protest started at 10 am and by 10:32, Moll reported that “All is quiet again,” at the Apple Store.

He hopes his efforts will galvanize other Apple retail workers to speak up and does not fear for his job.

“The fact that I’ve been talking about it since May and I haven’t been fired speaks volumes,” Moll said. “Apple is very aware of our rights to speak publicly… I take full advantage of the rights and liberties we enjoy in this country to be able to do that.”

Although Apple just one of the global tech companies who make their must-have devices at the Foxconn plant, it is largely taking the heat for the working conditions there.

“I have been a lifelong Apple customer and was shocked to learn of the abusive working conditions in many of Apple’s supplier factories,” said Mark Shields, who launched the campaign on Change.org. “At Foxconn, one of Apple’s biggest manufacturers, there is a history of suicides, abusive working conditions, and almost no pay. These working conditions are appalling, especially for Apple.”

More from Cult of Mac:

Protests against iPhone factory conditions planned Thursday for Apple Stores

Still unhappy with Apple’s response to the New York Times’ series on labor conditions in Chinese factories that make iPhones and iPads, two organizations are planning a globally coordinated protest on Thursday. Representatives from Change.org and SumOfUs.org will deliver petitions to Apple stores in several major cities with the names of 250,000 people who want the iPhone maker to develop “a worker protection strategy” covering the people who build its devices in China.

The groups say they will deliver the petitions in person in Washington, D.C., New York City, San Fransisco, London, Sydney and Bangalore and will carry signs and leaflets.

The SumOfUs petition has more than 56,000 electronic signatures so far. According to the grassroots group, more than 35,000 of those signatures belong to people who say they are current Apple customers — 20,000 of them are said to be iPhone owners. The number includes Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, SumOfUs’ executive director, who says she love her iPhone but doesn’t “love having to support sweatshops.”

In the press release she adds:

“Apple’s attention to detail is famous, and the only way they could fail to be aware of dozens of worker deaths, of child labor, of exposure to neurotoxins is through willful ignorance. That’s why our members are asking Apple to clean up its supply chains in time to make the iPhone 5 its first ethically produced product.”

Apple has said it cares about workers and says it’s doing all it can to improve conditions at factories like Foxconn’s. CEO Tim Cook wrote in an internal email to employees earlier this month, “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.”

But even if that is true, it doesn’t change the fact that some iPhone owners and other concerned citizens aren’t satisfied with the current status of those factories, how workers are treated and paid, and will do what they can to continue to make this an issue for Apple.

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35,000 Sign Petition Calling For Apple To Stop Worker Abuse In Chinese Factories

It seems that lengthy report looking into the poor working conditions in Chinese factories assembling Apple products is going to haunt the Cupertino company for some time yet. The latest backlash comes from consumer group SumOfUs, which has launched a petition calling for Apple to “stop worker abuse,” with over 35,000 signatures collected in just 24 hours.

It all started with a New York Times report that was published on January 26, detailing the chilling conditions that Chinese factory workers must suffer while they assemble our favorite Apple devices. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has already expressed his outrage at the report, which he labeled “patently false and offensive.”

Cook also assured Apple employees that the company has “made a great deal of progress and improved conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers,” but this hasn’t deterred the protesters.

A petition launched by SumOfUs has collected 35,000 signatures from people who are calling for Apple to do more to improve working conditions in Chinese factories. The company’s executive director, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, believes the considering Apple’s “famous” attention to detail, the only way the company can not know what’s happening in Chinese factories is through “willful ignorance.”

But despite this, Stinebrickner-Kauffman loves her iPhone:

“I use an iPhone myself. I love it, but I don’t love having to support sweatshops, and neither do millions of other Apple consumers.”

“The hip, educated market that Apple aspires to corner is largely composed of responsible consumers who don’t want to be complicit in sweatshop labor. Apple’s attention to detail is famous, and the only way they could fail to be aware of dozens of worker deaths, of child labor, of exposure to neurotoxins is through willful ignorance.”

Stinebrickner-Kauffman concludes by blasting Tim Cook, who she believes could do more to fix the problems if he was really offended by the allegations:

“If Tim Cook is really offended by these allegations, why isn’t he doing anything to fix the problems? Every time a Foxconn worker is killed or disabled making an Apple product, Mr. Cook bears personal moral responsibility. Apple’s enforcement of razor-thin profit margins at suppliers invites – and may even force – them to slash workers’ rights. But Apple is going to have much bigger longer-term problems than paying a few extra dollars for its products if it loses its luster with ethical consumers.”

While factory working conditions may need addressing, Apple has stressed the efforts it is making to do this on numerous occasions. It has also launched a Supplier Responsibility section on its website that allows us to track these improvements, and it has signed up to support the Fair Labor Association.

While additional pressure on the Cupertino company may inspire it to do more, maybe it’s also time for us to turn to the other manufacturers, like Dell, HP, Sony, and many more, who also use Foxconn factories for product assembly, and may not be taking the same steps Apple is to improve these issues.

If you’d like to sign the petition yourself, you can do so by visiting the petition page on the SumOfUs website.

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