It’s no secret by now that workers in Asia, particularly those at Foxconn, have a rough work life. Actually, work is basically their life. Technology companies from all forms of communication, personal electronics, and other genres of consumer-driven markets have all had products made overseas for the cheaper labor, but up until the last few years, the conditions in which workers face when building these complex gadgets has mostly went under the media radar.
Companies such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Amazon, Nintendo, Sony, Dell, Motorola, Intel, IBM and many more all show up on Foxconn’s list of clients, producing a vast majority of popular electronics components to be shipped all around the globe. It’s no surprise that, with a bad situation now in the open, there would be protestors trying to call out the corporate giants to help stop the inhuman treatment in overseas sweatshops.
One company, for whatever reason, gets the most media attention about these issues: Apple, Inc. With the extreme level of popularity that has come to Apple in the last six years, they’ve developed just as many fans as they have enemies. Whether it be their business practices, the cult-like surrounding that follows them, or the simplicity of their products being marketed to the common person, it seems one can either love Apple, or hate them. In this issue, it’s a hate trend.
Media has been covering the story for a while: Workers who slave on the iPhone overseas are treated bad. Although it isn’t Apple directly that puts the people into sweatshops and packs multiple people into dormitories too small for a single college student in America, they are viewed as supporters of such treatment due to their continued business with Foxconn. Apple has performed annual audits of the company for a while, and recently appointed an independent organization, the Fair Labour Association, to take over inspections. Despite these audits, and their competition doing it as well, they are called out on it more than anybody, and protestors have finally started raising their voices.
The scheduled delivery of petitions asking Apple for better treatment of workers in factories that produce their iDevices occurred on schedule in New York City Thursday morning. The observers at the scene stated there were far more press in attendance than actual protestors. Even so, their mission was accomplished all the same, because aside from the goal of rallying support, the main goal of a protest is to raise awareness on a more macro scale, which the reporters were happy to do for them.
Their mission was to hand deliver the signatures of more than 250,000 people, a goal they easily reached. The handoff of such petitions took place at the new Grand Central Terminal store, which is only a few months old.
Roger Cheng of CNET was on the scene as well, also reporting that Apple “was ready” for the representatives of two organizations, Change.org and SumOfUs.org, who were responsible for organizing the event. The turnout was only a few dozen people, who were holding signs up in the air depicting what could be interpreted as an “ethical iPhone” but there were still a quarter of a million signatures on paper. Upon delivering the petitions to Apple’s new Grand Central Terminal store, the representative of Change.org stated that the employees at the store “were very polite” when receiving them.
Apparently, this isn’t the end of it either. Sources in the petition claim there are also petitions of similar fashion scheduled to circulate and be delivered to stores in San Francisco, Washington D.C., London, and Bangalore. Similar to the Occupy movement, there is a potential to create a popular trend of protests around the country in support of better worker treatment, which I for one, and totally in support of. It’s no secret these human beings do not have the same opportunities and freedoms as us in America, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve decent treatment, including proper housing, adequate breaks and meals, and time off.
Some would argue “fair wages” as well, which would be nice to see, however the reality of the situation overseas, is that the workers are generally happy with the wages, earning far more money per day than most other jobs they can work. The treatment should be improved, but you likely won’t see anywhere close to wage increases resembling those of the United States.
What I’m most interested in, is what this will end up doing to the situation. Will these petitions change anything? Let us know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what the future of workers could be, or should be. Thanks!