Tim Cook addresses the Apple troops, comments on human rights problems at Foxconn

| Friday, January 27th, 2012

Foxconn and its employees have been on a lot of people’s minds these days. It started with the This American Life episode about life in the Shenzhen factory. The episode seems to have been a tipping point for the media. After that episode went pubic, Jon Stewart did a segment on The Daily Show about the situation. Yesterday, the New York Times ran an in-depth article about the situation titled In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad. The coverage has resulted in Tim Cook sending out a lengthy letter to his employees that directly addresses the statements made in the last couple of weeks in the media about Apple’s commitment to rectifying the human rights problems in its supply chain.

From The Tim Cook letter, according to 9to5Mac:

[quote]some people are questioning Apple’s values today, and I’d like to address this with you directly. We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It’s not who we are…we’ve made a great deal of progress and improved conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers. We know of no one in our industry doing as much as we are, in as many places, touching as many people…We will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues. What we will not do — and never have done — is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain. On this you have my word.[/quote]

Apple has been increasingly open about their program implementations in China to help alleviate some of these problems. The company has even partnered with the Fair Labor Association to ensure transparency with their reports on the situation. Sadly, it seems that until journalists are actually on the ground and in these factories themselves, this human rights question is going to keep popping up.

Surely, for some, Tim Cook’s letter to his employees will just be lip service. But, it’s important to realize that Apple is taking large steps towards changing and rectifying the problems at Foxconn for an entire industry, not just themselves. That’s not something that will be fixed overnight. Hopefully Apple’s commitment to eliminating the poor working conditions at Foxconn will rub off on some of its competitors who also use Foxconn for their products. I don’t know about you, but it’s mighty curious that Microsoft, Sony, and Amazon are all extremely quite about the situation, despite having products made in Foxconn factories.

It sure sounds like a plan is in place to rectify the problem. Hopefully we’ll hear more about the results in the days ahead. I’d be lying if I said that the This American Life episode didn’t affect me. It certainly had me questioning whether or not the toll some people pay to bring us flashy new phones is worth it in the end.

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