By Suzanne Choney
An online petition asking Apple to “address dangerous conditions in factories” making the next iPhone has gotten 35,000 signatures in the first 24 hours of the effort.
“I use an iPhone myself. I love it, but I don’t love having to support sweatshops, and neither do millions of other Apple consumers,” said Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director of the group behind the petition, SumOfUs.
The working conditions at Apple factories in China were detailed in a recent New York Times article. In the article, a former Apple executive is quoted as saying, “We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on…Why? Because the system works for us.”
SumOfUs, which describes itself as a “movement of consumers, workers and shareholders speaking with one voice to counterbalance the growing power of large corporations,” said it started the petition because the timing is right, with a new iPhone, called the iPhone 5 for now by many, in the works.
“Right now we have a huge opportunity as ethical consumers: The launch of the iPhone 5 later this year will be new Apple CEO Tim Cook’s first big product rollout, and he can’t afford for anything to go wrong — including negative publicity around how Apple’s suppliers treat their workers,” the group says on its site.
“That’s why we’re launching a campaign this week to get Apple to overhaul the way its suppliers treat their workers in time for the launch of the iPhone 5.”
Apple, contacted for comment by msnbc.com about the online campaign, has not yet responded; if the company does, the post will be updated.
Apple CEO Tim Cook did send an email to employees after the New York Times story was published, saying in part, “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.”
Said Stinebrickner-Kauffman: “Apple’s enforcement of razor-thin profit margins at suppliers invites — and may even force — them to slash workers’ rights. But Apple is going to have much bigger longer-term problems than paying a few extra dollars for its products if it loses its luster with ethical consumers.”
- Bottom Line: Who’s most to blame for poor conditions at Apple’s Chinese suppliers?
- Behind the Wall: At Apple’s Chinese factories, long hours, health woes and death
- Why Apple says it can’t build an iPhone in the US