Protesters at Apple stores demand 'ethical' products

Originally published on February 9, 2012 2:00 pm

In an effort to protest the working conditions in the Chinese factories that make Apple products, demonstrators delivered a petition to six different Apple stores in four different countries.

The petition, which asks the country to make "ethical" products, included about 250,000 signatures. Organizers said they were delivering them to Apple stores in Bangalore, London, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Sydney and New York City.

NPR's Margot Adler was at the Apple store at Grand Central Terminal in New York. She reports that Shelby Knox, the director for Change.org, the website used to collect the signatures, delivered the petitions to the store manager.

"We're coming together as fans of Apple, who buy their products, to say, we want an ethical product," Knox told Margot. "You are a leader in technology and we want you to be a leader in making ethical products for us to use."

Margot asked Knox if she would switch to another brand, but Knox said there wasn't an ethical choice.

The protests come after various reports have documented poor working conditions at Foxconn's factories in China. Foxconn manufactures electronics for big brands like Amazon, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Nintendo. In January, The New York Times ran a long piece that documented the working conditions at the factories and before that Wired reported on them.

According to Wired some Foxconn employees work 12-hour days without a break. At times, they're not allowed to talk or sitdown.

Apple sent ABC News a statement in which the company said it insists "our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made."

Apple said every year it was increasing the number of inspections it undertook.

"Last month Apple became the first technology company admitted to the Fair Labor Association, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving conditions for workers around the world," Apple said. "The FLA's auditing team will have direct access to our supply chain and they will report their findings independently on their website."

Update on Feb. 10 at 12:53 p.m. ET. Mike Daisey:

Our friends at This American Life tell us via Twitter that man on the far left of the photograph at the top of this post is Mike Daisey, who performs a one-man show called "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," which explores Apple's manufacturing practices.

Last month, TAL ran an excerpt of Daisey's show, which you can find here.

Update on Feb. 10 at 4:38 p.m. ET. This American Life:

Just a quick note to point out that the change.org petition was inspired by the This American Life segment.

"Last week's This American Life shined a spotlight on the working conditions in the Chinese factories where iPhones are made. Just one example of the hardships there: the men and women in these factories work very long days spent repeating the same motions over and over, which creates amped-up carpal tunnel syndrome in their wrists and hands," wrote Mark Shields, who started the petition.

Update on March 16 at 2:44 p.m. ET. This American Life Retracts Daisey Story:

This American Life has retracted the show featuring Mike Daisey.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.