Apple mania took over the interwebs on Wednesday morning as the company unveiled its latest iPad.
In addition to the roar of excitement, the activist watchdog group, “SumOfUs” called on Apple to release employees’ time card data from the last four months to see if workers in China were forced into grueling and illegal overtime schedules.
SumOfUs Executive Director Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman spoke with Mashable on Wednesday morning. She cited the New York Times’ story from January that reported employees at an Apple factory in China were awoken from slumber to work overnight shifts in order to make last-minute changes to the iPad 2. That article was the catalyst for this particular petition, she said, but SumOfUs has targeted Apple and its working conditions in China since the organization launched in late November 2011.
She says Apple’s hiring of the Fair Labor Association is a public relations move, or “whitewashing” as she called it.
“It is a PR exercise, not an actual investigation,” she said. “The head of the FLA was giving interviews one day after he arrived — he didn’t interview any workers. It’s clear anything they release will be calculated.”
This response doesn’t fix the problem, “but it’s cheap,” she said. Apple will have to spend money or change their practices in order to actually make a difference. — “Apple’s going to have to allow it’s suppliers to have a slightly bigger profit margin,” she added.
Last year, Apple’s profit margin was more than 30 percent, while Foxconn (Apple’s most notorious factory) had a 1.5 percent profit margin, Bloomberg reported. Stinebrickner-Kauffman said Foxconn’s profit margin is actually more profitable than a lot of factories in Asia, but still not enough for suppliers to follow Apple’s and the FLA’s code of conduct.
“The other thing they’ll (Apple) have to realize is they can’t make last minute changes and expect their suppliers to hold to their timeline,” she said.
Stinebrickner-Kauffman said she’s an iOS device-user herself and like many folks with Apple devices, doesn’t want to be complacent while accusations of unfair working conditions persist about Apple’s factories in China.
The petition has not yet been emailed to supporters and has already garnered more than 130,000 signatures. Stinebrickner-Kauffman said she thinks Apple will hear the message loud-and-clear, even if they don’t acknowledge it.
“Apple doesn’t like to admit it,” she said. “But there have been successful NGO campaigns against Apple.”
SumOfUs was launched in late November with the goal of help organize consumers to push companies to be more sustainable and responsible.
Are you going to buy the new iPad or will you wait until Apple hands over employees’ time cards? Are you going to sign the petition? Have you stopped purchasing Apple products because you don’t want to support its overseas labor practices? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.