Apple is still feeling backlash from recent negative attention directed at factories in its device-making supply chain overseas, with the most recent fallout centering around customers creating an online petition asking for an “ethical” iPhone.
The trouble started for Apple last week, when the New York Times printed a report detailing harsh work conditions in the plants of plants run by Apple partners in Asia. Apple has long been criticized for using companies known for allegedly employing practices that would be considered untenable for workers in the West, like hiring underaged workers, pushing employees to work long hours and failing to provide proper safety features and oversight in plants.
The NYT report focused on showing that Apple uses its enormous bargaining power from the strength and high sales numbers of its devices to cut its component suppliers’ profit margins down as much as possible, encouraging those plants to make electronics components as cheaply as they can. That can naturally mean forcing employees to work more for less money and under harsher conditions.
As Technolog reports, a new petition by Apple users asks the company to help create changes for supply chain workers for the next iPhone, expected to hit store shelves this summer. It notes that while consumers like and enjoy Apple’s products, they don’t want to purchase them if they were created under “sweatshop” conditions. The petition has already garnered more than 35,000 signatures in its first 24 hours of existence.
For Apple’s part, CEO Tim Cook issued an email response to Apple employees following the NYT article, claiming that the accusations about Apple’s complicity in unfavorable working conditions with its suppliers was untrue. Cook said conditions like those described in the article were contrary to Apple’s values, and pointed to a recent audit Apple did of supply chain partners in which it pointed out labor issues and said it was working toward helping those partners improve conditions.
Regardless of Apple’s position, many of the supply chain companies it partners with have a checkered history of labor issues, and many of those companies are employed by other electronics makers in the U.S., including Microsoft. Both Foxconn and Pegatron, two Chinese companies that assemble Apple devices, suffered explosions last year that killed severa and injured dozens more, because of the build up of flammable aluminum dust produced through the creation of iPads. During the last two years, Foxconn also saw several workers commit suicide.
Though Apple has vehemently denied the allegations made by the NYT article, with enough of its customers demanding further action from the company to improve working conditions, the iPad and iPhone maker may find itself caving under the pressure. The ethical iPhone petition is available on SumOfUs.org, and can be found at this link.