iPhone Owners to Protest Working Conditions at Apple Factories

Inspired by the recent New York Times series on the rise of manufacturing in China and the “sweatshop” perception of contract manufacturers in the country, a group of iPhone owners is planning to stage protests at Apple stores this Thursday in the U.S.

Two human rights organizations will be marching to Apple stores in the U.S. to protest alleged unfair labor practices in the company's suppliers in China.

Representatives from Change.org and SumOfUs.org will personally deliver petition letters to Apple stores in major American cities Thursday, February 9 (February 9 evening to February 10, Beijing time) with the names of at least 250,000 petitioners who want “ethically produced” iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices.

Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director for SumOfUs, says the group loves their devices, but don’t want to support sweatshops.

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.

Ethically Produced iPhones?

Will we ever see an “ethically produced” iPhone and iPad in the near future? Apple is trying to establish “supplier responsibility” and CEO Tim Cook stressed the company’s desire to clean up its image in an internal memo earlier this year.

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.

However, it might seem that Apple is shrugging off culpability here, by saying it wants to uphold human rights within its supplier ranks, and yet issues still continue to happen. Perhaps Apple is, indeed, too deeply involved in its manufacturing supply chain that it would rather turn a blind eye to deficiencies in HR care in order to keep high profit margins.

And as for us consumers, it seems we’re part of the problem because we keep on buying iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and just about any product manufactured in China.

But, before you head to your local Apple store carrying placards and signatures, you might want to consider a few thoughts (or call them “facts” if you may). Tim Worstall writes at Forbes how Workers at Foxconn — Apple’s biggest supplier from China — are actually better off than elsewhere in the country.

Foxconn employees make 25% more than the national average wage in China. Suicides are only a tenth of the national average in China, and work-related fatalities are 80% lower than the U.S. average.

Would you join the call for an “ethically produced” iPhone?