Apple stores in five major cities received a rush of publicity this week, and it was not because of a glossy new gadget. This time the visitors, accompanied by an army of media representatives, were a group of fair-labour activists protesting against unfair working conditions in one of the factories that builds Apple products.
The factory, run by Foxconn, has come under sharp criticism from various quarters for the sweat-shop-like working conditions workers are subjected to. This has been added to by the stories emerging of employees committing suicide or becoming critically ill owing to these conditions.
The lobby group took up the issue after some Apple fans complained at the shocking work conditions depicted in the media highlighting the plight of the Foxconn employees. Only last year, a group of 300 employees threatened mass suicide if they were not given their dues, which they had been duped out of by the management.
The petitions were collected electronically on the website change.org and drew in 250,000 petitioners who are asking Apple to look into the labour issues and build more ethical products. The issue has been snowballing for a while now and is only now becoming a more mainstream issue although there has been news coverage on the same in the past. The other petitions were delivered to cities in Australia, India, UK and the US. Apple have not yet responded to the petition.
It may however be noted that the new Apple, led by Tim Cook, has adopted a softer approach to humanitarian issues with some highlights being the discounts on Apple products offered to Apple employees and the reopening of charity support, which the late Steve Jobs had shut down. This may be taken as a positive indicator that this new push for fair labour may not fall on deaf ears as it did before.