That new iPhone? Not as cool as you think.

Apple says it makes its products ethically. It says that even the new iPhone that will be unveiled today will meet it’s commitment to the “highest standards of social responsibility”.

But then how does Apple explain this report we got just last month from a worker in a factory in its Chinese supply chain?

iPhone 5 factory worker

Back in January, in response to reports of repeated worker suicides, toxic working conditions and rampant illegal overtime, launched a campaign to push Apple to address reports of horrendous working conditions in its Chinese supply chain. Over 200,000 of us raised our voices to demand that Apple make the iPhone 5 ethically. That phone is being released today. In a few weeks, it will be on the shelves. But the iPhone 5 is not an ethical iPhone — not even close.

In response to the massive public outcry, Apple promised to improve working conditions, raise wages, and put an end to involuntary labor. The Fair Labor Association — which is paid by Apple to investigate Apple — quickly announced that there was rapid progress at Apple’s suppliers. But independent reports from as recently as last month tell a very different story.

Apple claims that it’s ending forced illegal overtime, but workers are simply required to meet the same quotas within a regular shift — meaning many have to work extra hours without any pay at all. Apple claims wages are rising, but deductions for room and board have risen even more, so take-home pay has actually declined. Meanwhile bosses are still abusive, unions are still overwhelmingly populated by management, students are still forced to work in factories as part of phony “internship” programs, and workers still lack any collective bargaining rights.

Suppliers like Foxconn abuse their workers because Apple demands that iPhones and other gadgets be produced as cheaply as possible. But Apple makes huge profits, and it can easily afford to treat its workers ethically. And as the world’s largest company, Apple has the cash, the centralized supply chain, and organizational heft to drive improvements throughout the Chinese manufacturing sector by raising its own standards.

Together, members have already driven Apple to respond to reports on working conditions in its supply chains. Apple clearly wants to look like an ethical company, even though it isn’t acting like one yet. So we need to keep up the pressure until Apple finally follows through on its promises.

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Source: China Labor Watch



Further reading:
Sweatshops are good for Apple and Foxconn, but not for workers. Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, May 2012
Beyond Foxconn: Deplorable Working Conditions Characterize Apple’s Entire Suplly Chain. China Labor Watch, June 2012
China Contractor Again Faces Labor Issues on iPhones. The New York Times, September 2012.

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