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back to article Apple Stores getting petitions on ethical conduct for breakfast

Breakfast at Apple retail outlets in Washington, DC, New York, San Francisco, London, Sydney, and Bangalore will come with a side order of protest on Thursday morning, as “concerned Apple customers” will be dropping off 250,000-signature petitions calling out Apple on supplier working practices. The petitions ask Apple to …

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Trollface

I am shocked, shocked, by the poor work conditions!

How dare they use the same suppliers as the rest of the industry? Or all other industries, for that matter?

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Unhappy

So True!

I buy Steve's Stuff specifically to stand out from the crowd. Now that I find it is made in the same sweat shops as all the rest I feel cheated. My user experence is now diminished and feels dirty.

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Anonymous Coward

Err...

Protests against trainer manufacturers started at Nike, they were just doing what everyone else did, but they were the biggest. There is no point protesting at a tiny company noone has ever heard of.

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Anonymous Coward

"a tiny company noone has ever heard of."

Like Microsoft and Samsung?

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Anonymous Coward

@+++ath0

Apple are currently the biggest consumer electronics/computer manufacturer (by income) it makes more sense to target them and use their influence to make the others fall into place behind them.

If the protesters can get Apple to start taking their subcontracted workers' rights seriously, the other companies will certainly do the same. Apple are famously a company who don't give two hoots about anything other than income - no charitable giving from Apple - no shareholder dividends - just a big pile of cash in the bank. Apple need to change, when they do it will be all the better if they can take others with them.

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Anonymous Coward

> Apple are currently the biggest consumer electronics/computer manufacturer (by income)

I was thinking targeting the biggest consumer electronics BY VOLUME would actually help MORE of those "enslaved" Chinese workers.

But I'm sure that other view makes more sense in your world.

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Anonymous Coward

@+++ath0

Apple are the most visible target, they produce top of the range products for which they charge a premium. They are the obvious place to protest, those smaller companies are the sort where people don't really know they own their products - the likes of Matshita and LG may be larger by amount of products sold, but they won't engage the public like going for Apple. Once the public are aware of an issue and engaged in it, the focus can be moved to general practice in other companies.

It worked with Nike and the footwear industry, I don't see why it shouldn't work with Apple and the tech industry.

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Anonymous Coward

'97% child-labor free'

doesn't sound all that reassuring, really.

As long as Apple (and other electronics producers) is outsourcing manufacturing, they have very limited control over the working conditions. They could pay Foxconn more to make iPhones and such as Mr. Thomson suggests, but there's no way to ensure that money will go to the assembly-line workers; it'd be far more likely to end up lining the pockets of executives.

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Exactly

Paying more would not ensure the workers get paid more.

Maybe you could enforce higher wages by contract, but that might result in some unforeseens among workers. Big Wong makes less than Little Wong, Big Wong gets angries, Little Wong gets involuntary iPhone insertion (I will sideline the joke about polyp detection).

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Stop

I'm with RatFox...

...but I'll take it a step further. It's not just the tech companies but a great deal of manufacturing that relies on the abuse and exploitation of the workforce, and its not just in China either; you can find examples wherever you might reside.

We largely choose to turn a blind eye to such working practices whilst we revel in the cheap goods that forced or coerced labour can provide.

Perhaps it's time we examined the sources of our disposable goods a little more closely?

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Anonymous Coward

but the flip side of that

Is people demonising unions and claim they destroyed many areas manufacturing industries. How dare our workers want decent pay and conditions and not be treated like machines working 16 hour days for pennies per hour. It wasn't the unions that lost jobs it was the ever increasing drive for profit combined with an ever increasing expectation of lower cost products that lead to most manufacturing being moved to areas like worker safety and environmental clean ups don't matter. Which is also why China not only has one of the worst safety records in the world but is now also one of the most polluted places on the planet - but hey they sell us stuff cheap so that's ok then.

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Anonymous Coward

Of course the alternative is, if you stop exploiting the labor available in such nations and bring it all back to nations that have already been through an industrial revolution you leave the fledgling nations without any work so they starve to death and need to become dependent on chairty.

Also it isn't exactly easy for a company to enforce rules on providers that the providers arn't required to provide under their local laws.

As to child labor, we all used it for a very long time, thousands of years I'd guess, but I expect it's less in China than in other nations (India?) due to the one child policy. If you only have one child it's fewer mouths to feed and you have a greater focus to ensure the one child can look after you in old age, if you have 10 children you have more mouths to feed so it's only logical a number of them need to go out and work so the family doesn't starve. The work is often low skilled and low paid (sure it would be trivial in theory to pay more, but then inflation and rising costs, if the workers at manufacturing firm x earn twice as much as those working in provinitial firm y then x will buy up all the goods and services, and then everything will get more expensive to get in line with x leaving y all the more impovrished)

Also with the additional edge of just becouse you have more mouths to feed why should you earn more money, you're the one that produced the mouths.

Also another problem with ever increasing work force costs would be a gear towards greater automation meaning fewer jobs, so more unemployed so lower standard of living unless there's a social welfare system or more jobs that need low skilled labor.

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Fine with unions, not fine with...

them interfering with interfering with managing poor employees out. For example, in our school district, the teachers union insists on compensation based on seniority and not performance and similarly when we were forced to downsize the workforce (property taxes paying for schools has consequences when the housing market busts) insistes on keeping more senior teachers over more competent younger ones.

This is utter bollocks.

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Angel

Long term solution

Shift manufacturing to the US and provide much needed jobs and a boost to the economy. If it costs a little more so what, after Apple are making money hand over fist at the moment. Come on Apple lead by example and don't forget it's a perfect marketing opportunity. Being the first big company to produce ethical IT products could start a revolution. Hmmm.... revolutionary now where have I heard that before?

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FAIL

Ethics, schmethics!

Go into any supermarket in the UK and you'll see plenty of products with labels like "Fairtrade" and its ilk. Alongside these products are other, cheaper, products produced using more, er, "conventional" ethics.

You will be shocked—shocked, I say!—to learn that the cheaper, "differently ethical", products vastly outsell their kinder, more expensive, rivals.

Fundamentally, it boils down to this: If the Chinese want their society to change, they'd better stop hoping another country will come riding to their aid and make it happen for them, because that's not how revolutions with full buy-in of the populace work.

Been there, done that, took the (cheap, Chiinese-made) T-shirt back for a refund. Imposing regime change from without does more harm than good. It's certainly not very ethical.

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"another country will come riding to their aid"

Like France, Spain and Holland, you mean?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Revolutionary_War

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Mushroom

agreed

with their profit margins and the billions they have made in the U.S. the only ethical thing to do would to bring these jobs back to the U.S.

If they don't they are traitors of the worse kind, and making the enemies of the U.S. strong, and making their own homeland weak. They will regret this when 50 years from now their grandchildren are working for Chinese overlords, under similar conditions.

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WTF?

@Rob Dobs

"They will regret this when 50 years from now"

For someone so pessimistic, you have a pretty upbeat view of Americans' life expectancy...

Also, I hope you don't buy anything made in China, lest you also be a 'traitor of the worse kind'.

World trade and economic policy is much more complex than you might think. China will face its own issues as its GDP/person equals that of more developed nations - they're already finding things difficult as the supply of endless, cheap labor is drying up. Once everybody in China is working for electronics suppliers, electronics suppliers can't set their own prices anymore. Once workers start to see a middle-class existence as a possibility, they're going to demand more.

This is already occurring, and will be a gradual process - nothing like your doomsday scenario. I mean, the last thing China wants is to rule the United States - it would completely nullify their economic advantage!

If you wanted to screw things up for most Chinese, you'd yank all manufacturing out instantly, as you suggest. And it would also screw things up for us, as those here with lower incomes would suddenly be unable to afford things that have become basics in life - computers, cell phones, TVs...

You want people to get paid $20/hour instead of $1/hour for assembling electronics? Awesome. Here's how to have an impact just as if that happened. Obviously you'll want to do this since you're so vehement about it.

(continued)

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...continued from part 1 of the anthology

(...continued)

First, find a good charity that operates in China. Got it? OK. We'll assume that since R&D, management, and marketing happens mostly in the US, the markup isn't really entirely dependent on labor prices. Say we figure that labor prices are 70% - this isn't too far off my company's manufacturing in the US.

Now, when you buy a TV, pay $1500 for it and donate $22,500 to your charity. You want an alarm clock? $150. A cell phone, if we assume the price isn't rolled into the contract? $6,000.

Boy, all those $20/hour workers are gonna be miffed when they find out that they need to spend two months' salary just to get a cell phone, or 8 months to buy a TV! Assuming they can devote 100% of their post-tax income to do so, of course.

And wow - that means their effective spending power is about... (tick ticka ticka) Look! Somewhere around $1.25/hour! Huh, what the odds?

Aaaand, even more continuing....

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Happy

....continuing again

Sounds like a great idea, then. We'll bring the manufacturing back here, jack prices of things up at -least- tenfold, and, effectively move the horribly low wages here while also screwing up the economy in China. Excellent!

In reality, what you get, roughly again, is two countries where everybody makes about $10/hour. You hope that good fiscal policy, productivity increases helped my technology, and economic growth can keep everybody at about the same living standard as the western nations, but that might not necessarily happen. This isn't because of Armageddon and traitors, it's because China's fast and huge shift from an impoverished agrarian to a huge rich country is an edge case. It won't last forever.

One could make the argument that, since money flowing into China moves it further toward the high gdp/head status of the US and Western Europe, and speeds its monetary equality with same, you should buy as much 'cheap Chinese crap' as possible to help give it a nudge.

If everybody jumps back a hundred years, and only buys stuff made at home, you end up with Americans generally having a tolerable but lousy standard of living, and the Chinese generally being utterly miserable - moreso than even the ones working at FoxxCon, even. Not a win, if you ask me.

(phew)

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Anonymous Coward

Let's hope it makes a difference

If it does, then the rest of the Tech industry will have to raise their game as well... Closely followed by clothing manufacturers and the rest of the sweat shops.

Wasn't there a similar outcry a few years ago involving Nike and Adidas?

Sadly, I fear that 'we' have become so accustomed to cheap kit that there'll be a bigger outcry when the prices go up and our wages don't. Welcome to the Global economy where you can only live well by someone else doing worse. It's always been that way - and it doesn't make it right

But it is work and people want work

http://micgadget.com/21420/thousands-line-up-for-foxconns-jobs-in-zhengzhou/

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Anonymous Coward

"If it does, then the rest of the Tech industry will have to raise their game as well... Closely followed by clothing manufacturers and the rest of the sweat shops."

Hahaha next thing you'd believe shit will soon stop being smelly.

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FAIL

Made In China

Now what is it that this small phrase is synonymous with I wonder........

It is the single phrase that epitomises modern day "slave labour" and it is omnipresent in the majority of goods that we import/buy.

This is not just an Apple problem, this is a first world contemporary problem that we choose to ignore due to the fact that we benefit from it.

As long as it's the Chinese that are doing the slave labour we know that we won't have to..... well not for the moment at least....

Increasing working conditions : Where do you put a stop to that increase, 20 dollars per product, 50 dollars, 100 dollars....... When the Chinese have the same working conditions that we do we will no longer be able to profit from their cheap labour.

What happens then: we will have to return to working in factories for ourselves and praying to the gods of Taylorism.

The choice is not so simple is it ...

Either they suffer or we do...

PS : No I don't have a solution to this problem but I am sure that if we continue in the same manner as we already do , the roles will become reversed and we will eventually become the slave labour of the world...... The exploiter becomes the exploited....

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Anonymous Coward

Too late

That train is already well under way. If you look closely we're already bowing at our new Chinese overlords, just hasn't reached the average Joe on the street.

Only way this would change now would be a civil war in China. But I suppose even that too would now would be suicide for all sides.

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So you are saying that the downside of this is a return of jobs to the UK??? Oh no!!!

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Anonymous Coward

Shit jobs with shit pay for our new Chinese overlords.

Doesn't sound so great now does it?

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"Where do you put a stop to that increase, 20 dollars per product, 50 dollars, 100 dollars....... When the Chinese have the same working conditions that we do we will no longer be able to profit from their cheap labour."

Just on iphones, Apple could absorb all of that cost and still make a profit.

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FAIL

Oh Dear! Time for the naughty step El-Reg

Quote

Industrial revolutions are always messy however. In the Sheffield, arguably the birthplace of the UK’s industrialization,

Eh? WTF? etc.

Have you journo's never heard of IronBridge?

Must do better. Fail naturally

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The industrial revolution began in Oswaldtwistle. You're both wrong.

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Facepalm

Its known as "Ironbridge - The birthplace of industry"

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>"Ironbridge - The birthplace of industry"

In all the tourist pamphlets maybe...Oswaldtwistle is where the Spinning Jenny [the first industrial machine] was developed.

Cloth, mostly wooden machines and water powered engines was where it began and massive mills were in operation long before Darby.

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There were massive mills and water powered engines designed in Roman times.

The Spinning Jenny was designed/built around the same time as Darbys discoveries in iron production, 1720s. While the ability to weave cloth more efficiently is certainly important, it is not as important to the industrial revolution as the mass production of purified iron.

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Anonymous Coward

Next up

Armchair (made in China?) protesters will be demanding Apple solve the Middle East crisis. You know because they bought an Israeli company (Anobit) and all that..

Shame the world has so many idiots.

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Anonymous Coward

@+++ath0

Of course the world has so many idiots. Without them, a market economy could not exist.

0 OK, 0:1

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Anonymous Coward

Naive

If Apple double what they pay for the assembly of iPhones, whose pockets will they be lining? Are the instigators of this petition naive enough to believe it will go to the workers in China? This is a top-down problem - it takes action by the Chinese government and businesses to get their house in order. They are enriching themselves at the expense of other citizens, and will only become richer if Apple pay more.

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Undercover Boss

Send the board and upper echelons of management to work on the Foxconn floors for a couple of weeks.

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Anonymous Coward

What exactly is a 'concerned Apple customer'?

Somebody who buys Apple products, but is concerned about the conditions of the people who make them?

As far as I can see, there are but two options here :-

(a) Stop buying Apple products, or

(b) F*ck off

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Anonymous Coward

But what products would concerned customers buy? Is there ANY ethically made phone? Not even the Vertu.

So I guess it's only option B.

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Boffin

only the sith deal in absolutes

A boycott is a viable form of protest, but isn't the only one.

Petitions and letter writing are acceptable ways of letting a company know that you, as a customer, are not happy with their behaviour. If they ignore you, or decide to continue with their current practices then you as an individual can make a decision to take your business elsewhere, or not.

To suggest that the only option is for everyone to go straight to boycott, without first registering your discontent, is rather extreme and, frankly, a bit silly.

and if you do boycott, let the company know or they probably wont notice!

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Anonymous Coward

"i"'ll still buy an iPhone and sign a petition. GET REAL!

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just go over to change.org and read the most recommended comments, so naive....like I'll stop buying Apple...and what? buy a Dell, HP, HTC etc all made at Foxcon or their relatives.

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Anonymous Coward

@johnnymotel

I think the difference here is that Apple happy lapped up the "Yuppie" market, treated them all as special, made them feel all warm and fuzzy, and praised they're worship of the products. While the rest of us understood the fact that their a corporation, bending their customers over but dangling a carrot in front of them.

We all know and expect the other guys to not give a shit, and anyone could have told you the Apple cultists we delusional to think they were "thinking differently".

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FAIL

so basically apple customers are complaining, in essence, that their igadgets are too cheap and more money should be spent on employee wages. Yup, I can see apple accepting lower profits for the good of the chinese worker!

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Joke

"These working conditions are appalling, especially for Apple"

Obviously a typo. Surely "appealing" was the right word?

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Coat

I would have thought it should be 'appeeling'.

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OMFG!

You mean......? Surely not! I mean...........

When we gleefully transferred all of those jobs (and I do mean 'we' - even if only by continuing to by cheap products) to these countries, well, I just sort of assumed that the workers there also got eight weeks' holiday a year, index-linked pensions, paid sick time, cost of living increases and a staff canteen.

You're telling me it's not true?

An awful lot of disingenuousness around (or an average age of 14 for Reg readers and petition signatures).

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1) If the workers don't like it, find a new job then.

2) Why is it the responsibility of Apple? If there are workplace issues, then the company that owns the facility needs to address them. If not, then China itself needs to step in. If the company nor China wants to do anything, then that is where these "protesters" need to voice their complaints too.

It does beg the question as to why only plants where Apple products are produced have these issues. Does Apple having the highest profit margins being part of it; as in they pay Foxconn hardly anything themselves? If that is the case, then Apple is just being capitalistic and Foxconn shouldn't have bargained better or China needs safety regulations for workers. Maybe Foxconn is greasing the palms of the right people to keep them off their back rather than providing better working conditions. Ultimately, it comes down to Foxconn and China.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, if people are unhappy with how workers are being treated In China, surely they should take this up with the Chinese government - e.g. by protesting at a Chinese embassy or sending their protest to the International Trade Comission who could levy duties on all Chinese imports.

Not only Apple plants have issues, far from it, as reported here less than a month ago 300 Foxconn workers threatened suicide - at a plant working for Microsoft.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/01/11/foxconn_mass_suicide/

Obviously it's not only Foxconn that has problems - Foxconn is actually good compared to other companies in China (shown by how quickly their job openings get filled), it's just that the media for some reason is tuned on them now.

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