Hours after Apple released its first quarter earnings, which showed a mind-blowing 44.7 percent profit, the New York Times published another in a series of articles illustrating some of the reasons behind Apple’s profit margin. Describing the conditions in which Chinese workers assemble iPhones, iPads and a panoply of Apple products, the report states:
Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.
More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.
A separate article details a New York Times survey that found Apple consumers are less likely to worry about the conditions in which products are made.
Over all, 52 percent of the public said it was very important that the products they buy were made in the United States; only 42 percent of owners of Apple products agreed.
Earlier this month, the Fair Labor Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending sweatshop conditions in factories worldwide, announced Apple was admitted as a “Participating Company.” That means that Apple promises to clean its supply chains from labor abuses during the coming two years.
The International Metalworkers’ Foundation expresses skepticism that Apple will carry through on it promises.
In fact, if Apple and other companies that outsource their work corrected the massive abuses of workers at their factories overseas, their incentive for shipping jobs from the United States would be greatly reduced.