Rallying to Stop iSweatshops

Apple built an empire around its sleek, shiny, height-of-cool brand. But that glossy image has been marred following recent media attention on Apple’s involvement with the Foxconn factory in Shenzen, China, where investigations have revealed the dark truth of where our iStuff comes from.

CEH stood alongside nearly 40 students, outraged Apple customers, and representatives of other nonprofits Thursday morning at a rally outside the company’s main campus in Cupertino. The protest, organized by the group SumOfUs, coincided with Apple’s annual shareholder meeting.

Holding signs that riffed on Apple’s logo and famous ads—such as an earbud-wearing silhouette next to the words “iWant an Ethical iPhone”—and chanting slogans like “Stop iSweatshops!” we stood on street corners at the Apple campus entrance and outside the building where the shareholders were meeting. Our goal was to bring attention to the human rights and environmental justice issues surrounding Apple products and to demand the company take immediate action to address these problems. Local press took notice.

Several representatives of SumOfUs attended the meeting to ask tough questions about Apple’s human rights record and to hand-deliver around 135,000 signatures to CEO Tim Cook calling for ethical iPhones and other products.

In addition to its shady environmental record, Apple is complicit in heinous labor violations at the Foxconn facility, including the use of child labor, exposure of employees to toxic chemicals, and brutal suppression of workers’ rights. Since these reports have come to the fore, Apple has announced it will begin independent audits of Foxconn and its suppliers in China.

It’s time for Apple to put people before profit and end these egregious practices. The company has an opportunity (and it certainly has the financial resources) to take a leadership role in the electronics industry by reforming its entire production life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to the assembly of its iconic products.