Apple Under Scrutiny for Another Labor Scandal
iPhone Criticized for the Mistreatment of Workers Involved in Its Production
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 21:09
As some students in the U.S. await the unveiling of the new iPhone 5, students in China are awaiting relief from unfair work regulations recently uncovered in Apple hardware supply factories. Foxconn, the company used by Apple to manufacture its various products, has been forcing vocational students to work as factory laborers in the face of a recent hiring shortage. While Apple refuses to comment, some labor equality groups in both the U.S. and China are demanding action.
Apple is not the first company to come under fire for its association with Foxconn’s labor policies. Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Microsoft, Intel and even Nintendo use Foxconn as a source of cheap, reliable manufacturing services. Dell and HP have both received criticism for their association with the company; Apple is coming under fire for a third time. The rising trend of forced labor is becoming increasingly worrying for many fair labor groups, especially when this labor comes from students.
“They said they are forced to work by the teachers,” Li Qiang, founder of China Labor Watch, told the New York Times. “They don’t want to work there – they want to learn. But if they don’t work, they are told they will not graduate, because it is a very busy time with the new iPhone coming and Foxconn does not have enough workers without the students.”
Li has been a strong voice in the charges against Foxconn and other manufacturing companies in China. He and others have discussed the problems with “interns” in these factory conditions: Foxconn takes advantage of programs that are designed to help students get more specialized careers later in life. Students who would be otherwise making connections to bring commercial interests to their various schools are now forced to work assembly lines.
Apple has not yet responded to the criticisms of the most recent Foxconn scandal, stating that it has already taken measures to prevent such issues from arising. It has hired a company to audit Foxconn and ensure that the company gives fair wages, hours and expectations to its workers. It also promised to ensure all employees are hired fairly.
Such measures do not account for interns from other schools. Though technically volunteers, these students are not represented in the recent set of audits. Newspapers in China have reported school closings so students can work at the factories – even students in English and history departments have been recruited for work at Foxconn. Organizations such as the China Labor Watch have responded with pushback, but the companies supplying Foxconn with business have not responded to the allegations.
While Apple waits to respond to this recent wave of accusations, its auditing company is still allegedly working to solve the labor issues at Foxconn. Labor groups demand that corporations push harder in these audits to ensure safe work for all laborers, and hope that conditions will soon improve.