Apple is one of the most recognized consumer electronics companies in the world, most known for its sleekly designed products and leadership in technological innovation. But the company has recently come under fire for the poor working conditions endured by workers at Foxconn factories – the factories that manufacture Apple products.
And as the iPad and iPhone continue to sell in record numbers, many watchdog groups are calling on the profitable consumer electronics company to clean up its manufacturing act.
Last week, the watchdog group SumOfUS put out a petition to pressure the company into making an “ethical iPhone 5”.
“Can Apple do this? Absolutely,” the petition stated. “According to an anonymous Apple executive quoted in The New York Times, all Apple has to do is demand it, and it’ll happen.”
Within 24 hours, the petition received 35,000 signatures.
The safety of Foxconn employees has recently garnered international attention following 2 high-profile explosions at iPad factories in China. One explosion at a Chengdu facility resulted in 4 deaths and 77 injuries and was covered extensively in a New York Times article.
A closer look at Foxconn working conditions reveals that many laborers endure 12 hour work shifts seven days a week and are sometimes piled into three bedroom apartments 20 at a time. Often employees had to work two shifts in a row – referred to as a “continuous shift”.
The conditions workers experience at Apple product factories is becoming an increasing source of contention for Apple. Already the company has had to fend off concerns over the ecological impact its products pose for the environment. However, when it comes down to innovation and profitability on the one hand and working conditions and the environment on the other, multinational companies often choose the former. After all, consumers of the iPad and iPhone rarely look past the glittering exterior of the products they purchase.
But if the public exerts enough pressure on the company, perhaps Apple will force Foxconn to provide better working conditions for its employees.
Image CC licensed by foto.bulle