Breaking news — June 14, 2012: Reports out of Foxconn’s plant in Chengdu — the same plant at which employees rioted last week — say that another worker has leapt to his death. While we cannot say for sure what caused him to jump, this is just the latest in a string of worker suicides in recent years. According to some reports, the Chengdu authorities forcibly ordered witnesses to delete all photos and videos at the scene, and warned that those who refused to do so would be arrested. The photo above is allegedly one of the few to survive.

In light of this tragedy, we are intensifying our call for Apple to ensure that workers are treated ethically. Read our open letter to Apple’s CEO below, and then add your name to the right.

An open letter to Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO

Dear Mr. Cook —

Apple pledged to make working conditions better in its factories in China. But now, Hong Kong-based independent research group SACOM has released a report showing that for many workers who make Apple products, working conditions have actually gotten worse. In some factories, workers have seen their pay cut — a blatant violation of Foxconn’s stated commitment to protect workers’ take-home pay. Some even report being forced to work unpaid overtime off the clock.

This is unacceptable. Worse is not better. You are the CEO of the most profitable company in the world. Your company has led the industry in innovation. It has also been an industry leader in overwork, underpay and worker exploitation. It’s not like improving working conditions is impossible; Apple can demand that suppliers do it, and they will have to listen.

As your customers and potential customers, we call on you to genuinely and measurably improve working conditions for the workers who build the products that have made your company so successful, by paying a living wage and ensuring respect for freedom of association, so that you will be able to say that your iPhones, iPads and other iGadgets are made ethically.

[the undersigned]

Background Information

Last week, around one thousand workers rioted for hours at an iPhone factory, voicing anger over their treatment at the plant.

Apple has been claiming that conditions for workers are getting better — but the truth is that for many workers, they’ve gotten much worse. Apple’s suppliers claim to the press that they have ended excessive overtime and doubled workers’ salaries.  Meanwhile, interviews with the workers themselves reveal that, for many not in management, pay has actually decreasedEven worse, workers are now being told to work UNPAID overtime or risk losing their jobs. And while Apple says that the factories have gotten more humane, workers say that they’re now being forced to clean toilets as a disciplinary measure.

Apple’s PR team thinks that it’s bought off the press with its promises to improve working conditions at some point in the future. We need to send a clear message to Apple — it can’t hide the truth.

If 50,000 members sign our open letter to Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, we’ll publish the letter in his hometown newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News. That way, Tim’s friends, employees, and competition will know what really goes on when Apple thinks nobody is watching. Apple wants to keep all of this out of the paper and out of mind, but by forcing Apple to confront this issue, we are letting it know that we will not go away.

All of this emerged last week when Hong Kong-based watchdog group SACOM — Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour — released a scathing report on conditions in Foxconn factories. The report is the first of its kind released since Apple pledged to treat its workers ethically, and it confirms our fear that Apple isn’t taking workers’ rights seriously. The fact is that Apple still hasn’t taken any real action to make its products ethically.

Instead, Apple has sent out a number of self-congratulatory press releases about its grand plan to improve these working conditions. Since it’s clear Apple cares deeply about its public image, we have an opportunity to make sure Tim Cook knows we aren’t going away as long as Apple’s colossal profit margins still come off the backs of exploited workers. 

Finally, while this is an issue across the Chinese electronics manufacturing sector, no company has the profit margins, centralized supply chain, and organizational clout to improve working conditions like Apple does. With Apple’s outsized influence, it alone can affect change across the entire industry. That’s why we need to tell Tim Cook to act now.


Background Information:

SACOM Report, Sweatshops are good for Apple and Foxconn, but not for workers, 31 May 2012
WantChinaTimes, Dozens arrested after Foxconn riot in Chengdu, 6 June 2012