Tim Cook speaks out against claims of factory worker mistreatment

Apple CEO Tim Cook has followed up on the New York Times story about the human cost of manufacturing iPhones, iPads, and Macs in China with an email to Apple internal employee. In short, he takes issue with the Times.

As a company and as individuals, we are defined by our values. Unfortunately 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. For the many hundreds of you who are based at our suppliers’ manufacturing sites around the world, or spend long stretches working there away from your families, I know you are as outraged by this as I am. For the people who aren’t as close to the supply chain, you have a right to know the facts.

Cook went on to note that Apple wants to educate workers about their rights. Apple wants to empower them to speak up when they are unfairly or mistreated. Cook claims more than a million people have already been trained under Apple's program. Cook was also sure to mention that it's his belief that no other company has taken more or better steps than Apple has with their workplace efforts.

The employee emails were semi-frequent under the late Steve Jobs and they've been regular under Tim Cook as well. Jobs was also fond of the open letter. Perhaps we'll start to see those from Cook as well, and this incredibly important issue will get the attention and publicity it deserves.

You can read Tim Cook's full email sent out to Apple employee's via the link below.

Source: 9to5Mac


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Chris Parsons

Editor-at-Large at Mobile Nations, gadget junkie, energy drinker, ranter.

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Reader comments

Tim Cook speaks out against claims of factory worker mistreatment


What apple needs to do is stop giving jobs to other countries and start building there damn products in america, there should be a law, if your not willing to put americans to work on productions, dont do business in america, you want china to build the products! Pack up your S@"t and move your company to china, tim cook needs to stop being a bold face lier and admit that china is takin advantage for, they are humans too buddy!!

Unfortunately, in a free market economy that does not work. Many companies that have manufactured consumer goods in the US have gone out of business due to high costs. Its a free country - Apple is free to manufacture where they want, and you are free to buy somebody else's products. Good luck finding a phone or tablet made in the USA.

Umm, companies like Apple are INTERNATIONAL companies. They often sell more product to other countries than they do in the US. So, your solution is they move to some other country and just leave the US continue its decline until China and the US swap? You think the unions in the US will be of any advantage if there are no companies and jobs?
I'm all for protecting workers rights, but you also have to be a bit realistic about the reality of the situation. While political borders might still exist, economically the boarders are more imaginary things.

To the above poster, I read somewhere a few years ago that of apple were to build their products in the USA you'd be paying about 5x more for them.

Actually, if you read the first NYT article that started this whole conversation, it said in there the price of products would only increase by an extra $65. Labor cost were not close to being the factor for moving manufacturing to China, it was the entire set-up and efficiency of the supply-chain infrastructure in China and its ability to adapt on its feet.
Those Foxconn jobs are not coming back here. What Apple can do is partner with Foxconn & use its cash to revamp the working conditions and bring it up to modern-day standards or whatever else they need to do.

I'm not saying that cheap labor has nothing to do with it, of course it's taken into account. I'm saying that that is not the only reason.

The conditions in China aren't going to change until some things actually change in China. I'm not against trying, and Apple being so big of a profile might help. But, I'm guessing they probably already do more than most of the manufacturers of products we buy from China (which is most of our products in most any sector). To really have much impact, the rest of the world would have to slow manufacturing in China, which would get the attention of the government (of course, that would also hurt many of these workers initially).

The problem here is that Tim is telling the truth. You see, he's speaking about educating workers as to their rights. And whether people would like to admit it or not, China is one of the most evil countries in the world in terms of human rights. Everyone wants to make America the villain, but look at what China does to its own people. It's a classic case of beating up on the person most visible and ignoring the true villain. The fact remains that you can educate Chinese workers as to their rights quite well. They don't have any. Now admittedly that is a bit of superlative speech, but no rights we would consider to be necessary.

Pffft. AAPL needs to set an example and clean up its act. Period. Not impressed with the email. Time to expect better from Apple. Time to demand it!

But, it's not really Apple's act, it's more a matter of how much pressure Apple can put on the political powers of China. If they put too much pressure, they will just end up having to move elsewhere and the people will likely be worse off. China's powers that be are the act which needs cleaned up. Unless ALL the companies there put pressure, Apple's doing so isn't going to have much effect.

Oh who cares. At the rate we're borrowing money from China, they'll own this country soon anyways. Then Apple can just head down the street to Sunnyvale for their 24/7 iGadget workshops.

That's not actually such a far-fetched point. If Christianity keeps exploding in China, which America continues it's spiral down the toilet (into secularization, as well as economic stupidity), it wouldn't be all that unreasonable to see a swap in position and conditions not all that far into the future.

I don't think anyone thinks Apple personally enslaves the Chinese workers.
The people who own the factories that Apple awards the contracts to are the problem.
A worker "knowing their right" Apple style doesn't mean crap. China is a big slave labor camp. The workers work long hours for crumbs and are pressured to produce in high volume.
How many people have jumped off the building where you work in the last few years?
Sorry Tim, we may be Apple sheep, but we're not stupid Apple sheep.

I know a lot of people in the US who work as many hours as these reports from China. As for jumping off of buildings, that probably has more to do with other factors than their jobs alone. I'm not saying things don't need to change, but it's going to take a LOT more than just Apple threatening to pull out.

It seems that Cook found the switch to the reality distortion field. Educate workers about their right??? Empowered to speak up?? Pleeease, they are in CHINA!! It's a totalitarian country with over a billion people, what right are you talking about?! Even if they had rights how can they enforce it? Perhaps Apple employees will feel very reassured by this memo, but it is a lame attempt to fool everybody else.
Apple has some of the highest profit margins in the business. If it really cared about factory workers it would be moving its factories back to the US, where unemployment rate is twice as high as China. I think people would be more than glad to pay an extra $50 or $65 for a “made in the USA” iPad or iPhone.
Truth be said, it is not an Apple problem, everybody does business with China, but at least nobody else is being self righteous about it.

The issue should not be to force Apple to bring manufacturing into the US, it should be US based manufacturing plants should be regulated to be more competitive and offer better competition to those outside the US so all companies including Apple are more likely to choose them.
Didn't this issue come up before, Apple like so many other companies are not responsible for the manufacturing. Hey do not own or run the facilities, the people who do and are awarded the contracts to produce are at fault as they are pushing to make more profit off their client (in this case Apple). Apple has shown their commitment to not sit on the side lines by training employees and engaging the issue. Dose anyone actually believe this is only happening in factories that produce Apple products, no, it is only getting the publicity because it is Apple. I think there are a lot of people who have opinions that are based on not enough fact, such as actually ever visiting a Chineese factory and actually seeing conditions or knowing the culture. We have to remember most of the time what we read is only part of the truth or has a bias oppenion, even so called facts need to be reviewed critically as the data gathering or sampling process can be in question.
I do not see Apple brining manufacturing back to the US and you could not force them to, how could you single them t amount all the companies that do this. Any measure to do so would alter the economic system causing more issues, both in the US and globally. Besides there is a lot more to it then cost which keeps manufacturing companies out of the US.

While I agree you cannot force Apple to return manufacturing jobs to the US, and that Apple is not the only American company at fault, neither can you let Apple off the hook for the conditions in its affiliated Chinese facilities by saying Apples does not own the factory. Apple knew then (and knows now) full well what goes on at Foxconn. To claim otherwise requires belief that a company famous for its control-freak level of product design is somehow content not to know how those very designs are implemented, and how those very products are built.

well said. I totally agree. There was an article today on Zdnet by Larry Dignan in which he stated that Apple will comprise %40 of Foxconn's revenue in 2012. That's massive. So even though they're not the only company contributing to this situation they certainly are, by far the biggest and the most influential.
So if calling out Apple means this situation comes into greater awareness and hopefully improve things then so be it. It's a good thing. They should not be left off the hook.

There's an article on appleinsider about Chinese workers who commented on the article and called it wrong. They said that of all the OEMs to work for in the tech industry that apple has done their best to make sure workers are treated reasonably. Granted, our idea of working conditions are entirely different than those in china.

Actually, it does not say that. It says that FoxConn is better than some of the other places, and the factories that produce for local companies are the worst.
As it happens, FoxConn is not an Apple factory, it manufactures for Amazon, Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and several others. The recent accident at FoxConn happened at the XBox assembly line.

Just this past January 14th, 150 Foxconn workers threatened suicide if working conditions were not improved. That's a little over ten days ago. I bet Cook began to draft this smoke screen memo back then.
We can only imagine the working conditions that can lead workers to suicide, but whatever anybody think that Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Amazon or Nintendo is doing, it is clearly not enough.

All electronics manufacturers have this same problem... ALL of them. This is not only an Apple problem.
Also, before any of you talk about what China and it's workers should do, you should probably go to China and see the landscape for yourself. Until then, you can't even begin to comprehend the complexities involved. You just sound like nieve Anericans who have absolutely no idea what the world looks like beyond US borders. Just because you have a particular view of the world doesn't mean other people share that view. This includes those Chinese workers you "care so much about."

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