Manufacturing plants in Apple’s supply chain are now being inspected by an independent worker rights organization. The Fair Labor Association (FLA) began the inspections today at one of the largest manufacturing plants in China, Foxconn. The plant employs more than 230,000 workers.
The independent inspections, requested by Apple, appear to be a reaction to the negative publicity generated by a New York Times investigative report (see our story on the report here). The New York Times detailed injuries, deaths, and intolerable working conditions (some of which led to suicides) at Chinese manufacturing plants that make Apple products, such as iPads and iPhones.
The report, and the stories that followed, led some to call for a boycott of Apple. While a serious boycott movement did not materialize, a petition drive asking Apple to “overhaul the way its suppliers treat their workers” gathered over 200,000 online signatures at Change.org. A similar petition drive at SumOfUs.org gathered nearly 60,000. The petitions were delivered to several Apple stores last Thursday.
Apple has been conducting their own audits of working conditions at its suppliers plants since 2006. The results of those audits are posted online by Apple, at www.apple.com/supplierresponsibility.
In January, a few weeks before the NYT report, Apple became the first-ever technology company admitted to the Fair Labor Association (FLA) as a Participating Company. The FLA describes itself as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending sweatshop conditions in factories worldwide.”
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said in a statement issued today “We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers. The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports.”
The inspections are to include interviews of thousands of employees. They will be asked about working and living conditions (many live in company dorms), health and safety, working hours and communication with management. According to Apple’s statement, they will also visit the dorms, manufacturing areas and other facilities.
The FLA’s assessments and recommendations from this first inspection are scheduled to be published in March. According to Apple, the report will be posted on FLA’s website at: www.fairlabor.org.