Seemingly since the release of its 2012 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, Apple has come under fire for the working conditions in manufacturing partner Foxconn's Chinese plants. Outfits such as the New York Times, CBS News, and This American Life have offered up lengthy accounts, the former detailing a "rash of suicide attempts" at Foxconn's Shenzhen factory. Heck, we've even covered a few Foxconn topics here at Tom's, and Conan O'Brien has even given his comical spin on a solution Apple should provide.
After reading recent media reports, self-proclaimed Apple "super-user" and Washington, D.C. communications consultant Mark Shields decided to start a petition asking Apple to release a worker protection strategy for new product releases. This is typically the time period when injuries and suicides spike because of the incredible pressure to meet quotas timed to releases.
"Here's the thing: you're Apple," he wrote in the petition. "You're supposed to think different. I want to continue to use and love the products you make, because they're changing the world, and have already changed my life. But I also want to know that when I buy products from you, it's not at the cost of horrible human suffering."
That's definitely something to think about when caressing and loving a new or used iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. How many people have suffered at our expense to install apps and watch re-runs of Glee on the go? Why do unsatisfactory working conditions still continue despite the media exposure? How can Apple even sell products that may have been the result of unnecessary human suffering?
According to Shields, his petition has gathered more than 162,000 signatures in just over a week. Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook is reportedly outraged over recent reports, especially the one provided by the New York Times. He promised in a letter to Apple employees that he will "dig deeper" into the allegations. BSR spoke out as well, refuting some claims made by the New York Times article.
“We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain," Cook said in the letter. "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 email to Tom's, Change.org, the site which plays host to the petition, paints a horrid picture of the working conditions, based on the New York Times accounting.
"Most people would be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from," the email said, quoting the New York Times.
To sign the petition, head here. As of this writing, the total number of signatures sits at near 164,000.