Apple's Ridiculous Response to Labor Criticisms

 Apple has not publicly responded to Thursday's New York Times article , chronicling horrific labor conditions at Apple's Foxconn factory in China. But 9to5mac is reporting that Apple's CEO TIm Cook unofficially responded with a lengthy E-mail to employees. 

He said,

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. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It’s not who we are.  

In case you missed it, "it" includes many daily horrors for Apple laborers. From the NY Times:

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning

“Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost,” said Li Mingqi, who until April worked in management at Foxconn Technology, one of Apple’s most important manufacturing partners. Mr. Li, who is suing Foxconn over his dismissal, helped manage the Chengdu factory where the explosion occurred. 

“Workers’ welfare has nothing to do with their interests,” he said.  

But even before the NY Times Article, Apple must have known about the horrendous conditions for workers at Foxconn.

Take this article, published in September:

Foxconn became notorious when a dozen workers attempted suicide in the spring of 2010. They were not the first, however. A combination of non-stop work and social isolation has driven 25 Foxconn workers to attempt suicide since 2007, including seven in May of 2010 alone. Twenty-one workers have died, the majority by jumping from dorms or work buildings.

Extensive coverage by Chinese press as well as reports by Students and Scholars Against Corporate Behavior (SACOM), a Hong Kong-based watchdog group, provide a detailed look into what labor activists describe as Foxconn’s “militarized management.”

In Apple's reported response, Cook said Apple regularly inspects factories and is dedicated to educating workers on their rights. He also said, 

“We will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues. What we will not do — and never have done — is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain. On this you have my word. You can follow our progress at”

Read the full E-mail here.  

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at January 27, 2012, 6:09am

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