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Apple Working-Conditions Controversy Reaches Fever Pitch With New Watchdog Website

A movement has launched a website to provide a repository of information on worker conditions at Apple’s factories in China in the wake of media reports that the tech giant has treated workers poorly.

SumOfUs.org, which has been critical of Apple, said the site, www.ethicaliphone.org, was designed to resemble an Apple website and work seamlessly on iPhones and other devices made by the company.

Following New York Times stories early this year that detailed ghastly working conditions in Apple’s supply chain, SumOfUs.org spearheaded a campaign worldwide to pressure Apple to improve conditions. Apple’s supplier, Taiwan-based Foxconn, has faced pressures after media reports depicted the company as one that hires children and subjects workers to continuous shifts, crowded living quarters and other abyssal conditions.

“To date, we have been disappointed with Apple’s progress in addressing working conditions in its Chinese supply chain. Workers making products for Apple are exposed to dangerous health and safety conditions on a regular basis, and despite working overtime well in excess of the legal maximum, can barely support themselves and their families,” said Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director of SumOfUs.org, in a statement Thursday. Apple has committed to fixing working conditions in its Chinese supply chain, and SumOfUs.org’s 650,000 members will be watching to make sure the iPhones and other iGadgets that Apple sells are indeed made ethically and working conditions are measurably improved.”

SumOfUs.org said it launched the website one year after an explosion at a Chinese factory in Chengdu run by Apple’s supplier Foxconn killed two workers. The movement wants one of the world’s richest companies to pay better wages, eliminate treacherous working conditions and take a number of other measures.

In February, Apple announced that the Fair Labor Association would conduct special voluntary audits of its assembly suppliers, including Foxconn factories in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China. Those assessments were to include interviews with thousands of employees about working and living conditions, including compensation, health and safety and working hours.

“We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the time, “which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers.”

Click here to read Apple’s 2012 progress report on such issues as labor and human rights, worker health and safety and environmental impact.


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