United Students Against Sweatshops: In China, Apple is facing its ‘Nike moment’

“As Apple Inc, the world’s most valuable listed company, braces itself for a report into alleged poor working conditions among its army of low-cost suppliers in China, it could heed the lessons from another big-brand retailer that faced similar issues two decades ago,” Terril Yue Jones reports for Reuters.

“‘Apple is facing its ‘Nike moment’,’ said Teresa Cheng, international campaign coordinator for United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), referring to accusations in the 1990s that suppliers to sportswear retailer Nike Inc mistreated workers,” Jones reports. “Such is the California-based iPad and iPhone maker’s dominance of the technology sector that its response to the non-profit Fair Labor Association’s (FLA) report – expected this week – could affect conditions across China’s vast electronics supply chain… ‘Unless we hold Apple’s feet to the fire, they’re going to get away with profiting off the same sweatshop conditions and driving a global race to the bottom while fooling the public and making it look like they’re getting better, just like Nike did,’ Cheng at USAS said in emailed comments.”

Jones reports, “Apple stresses its partners are required to adhere to strict global standards. ‘We insist our suppliers provide safe working conditions, (and) treat workers with dignity and respect,’ said spokeswoman Carolyn Wu. ‘Our suppliers must live up to these requirements if they want to keep doing business with Apple.’

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If the report is any good for Apple, it will be discounted and/or ignored by those with an agenda that has very little to do with Apple save for coattailing on the brand for free publicity. See Greenppeace and Consumer Reports.

Newsflash #1: Factory work is repetitive and boring. Until robots take over, that’s not going to change. That’s why the young, usually students, take those jobs in China. They are not 40-year old heads of households with kids and a mortgage. These are not career jobs.

Newsflash #2: U.S. citizens are used to U.S. living conditions. Seeing non-U.S. living conditions usually shocks the non-travelled U.S. citizen. That does’t mean companies should be accused of abusing sweatshop labor when they are doing no such thing.

Newsflash #3: People commit suicide. Pampered millionaires commit suicide. Foxconn’s rate of suicide is less that China’s as a whole. Those who use the tragedy of suicide in order to advance their agendas are vile.

Watch the ABC News video of the Foxconn factory here. We do not see anything that even remotely resembles a “sweatshop.” Read about young Chinese citizens lining up by the thousands for Foxconn jobs here. United Students Against Sweatshops would do well to find some real sweatshops to be “against” for a change. It does not advance their cause to concoct “sweatshops” where there are none. It only makes them look dishonest and desperate.

Related articles:
FLA President: Foxconn factories ‘first-class; way, way above average’ – February 15, 2012
Apple CEO Tim Cook calls New York Times supplier report ‘patently false and offensive’
Apple audit led by COO Tim Cook prompted improvements at Foxconn – February 14, 2011
Media blows it: Foxconn employees face significantly lower suicide risk – May 28, 2010


  1. This is an important moment in Apple’s history. If they play these cards right, they have a huge opportunity to shine. Facts don’t matter and reality is subject. If they can use the example of “antennae gate” to take the lead, elevate the discussion and in this case show the world how to address concerns about the complicated issue of fair labor practices – Apple can once again prove it’s the greatest company on Earth.

    1. haven’t they done the above already? Despite the unfortunate grammar, Cook’s open letter was very open. They have a section on the site just on this, they’ve hired third-parties to monitor conditions, they’ve twisted foxcon’s arms into giving a 20% pay increase across the board… What new, big response are people still expecting???

      1. I was going to say. The “Nike moment” is months if not years past. The conditions in Foxconns factories have been in the news since the suicide cluster, Apple itself has been reporting on its contractors going on 4 years, and conditions in Chinese factories have been known since Apple started making the iPod there.

        The FLA report is important, but the spokesperson is grossly overstating the situation.

    2. Just like antennagate, this is a non story. Apple has been working on the problem for years. It is in very good shape right now.

      The United Students should be looking closer to home where the suicide rate in America’s colleges and universities is two to three times greater than the Foxxcon suicide rate.

      There is a real cause for the United Students to work on.

    1. So you are saying that a corporation has no responsibility to the working conditions at it’s manufacturing facilities?

      What about the environment?

      Serious question, explain your statement and view please?

  2. Is the suicide rate at Foxconn higher/lower than in Hollywood? Washington, DC?

    My understanding is that the suicide rate at Foxconn is lower than elsewhere in China, which suggests that Foxconn (Apple) is a good therapy?

    A “Nike moment,” how creative.

  3. An important point you failed to mention: It would be hypocrisy for USAS to single Apple out. They should boycott anything made in China. At least Foxconn’s factories are being audited by the FLA. How about the factories where their Christmas presents were made? Do they have their FLA certificates?

  4. So, is Foxconn a subsidiary of Apple now? How is Apple facing its Nike moment, when Apple doesn’t actually own “sweatshops” ? That is a HUGE difference. One that everyone seems willing to overlook.

    This is nothing more than abusing a global brand to gain notoriety.

    1. Nike didn’t own any of their factories either. Their shoes were made in the same factories that their competitor’s (Adidas, Reebok, etc.) shoes were made in. Therefore, Apple’s moment is very similar to Nike’s moment.

    2. Your contention is that a corporation bears no responsibility for the actions of its subcontractors?

      What a convenient moral and logical loop hole you have discovered. We can just overlook ANYTHING, because “we didn’t do it”, just bass the buck…

  5. The problem that Apple faces is that people are shouting but not listening and certainly not thinking.

    Logical arguments won’t work against a closed mind. Apple haters will continue to keep this issue in the headlines and repeating a fiction often enough will effectively make it appear to be true.

    If Apple were to pay assembly workers more ( even though they have already increased rates recently ), it could afford to do so. I’m not so sure that Apple’s competitors who use the same factories could afford to match the same pay rates, so if could be a way for Apple to shift the focus onto those companies, but those companies are very successfully keeping quiet and letting Apple take the flack and they may well be able to keep doing so whatever happens.

    However, as labour costs increase, so the appeal of using robotic assembly increases and existing workers might find that their services will no longer be needed. That will portrayed in the press as callous Apple firing poor workers, rather than misguided, interfering do-gooders screwing things up for them.

  6. “Sweatshop”. Hardly. Fully air conditioned clean rooms. Biggest danger to employees is when they leave work and breath the highly polluted air in the Chinese cities. I would venture that job satisfaction level is well above that of many US workers. Try working in back of a hot fast food restaurant on your feet all day and facing piised off customers because his order was screwed up. Most of these do gooders never had a real job.

  7. That’s ok MDN, if the report is anything less than stellar I’m sure you’ll ignore and discredit it as you pursue your own agenda. A case of the pot calling the kettle black! 🙂

    1. Yeah just like I’m sure your heart bleeds for how the Chinese workers building things for HP and Dell and Microsoft are faring. Oh, wait, no you don’t care at all.

      Because you are a single brain called Apple hating hippocritocal troll.

      Piss off.

      1. I hope every worker at Foxconn is treated well regardless of the products they are making or what company they are building them for!

        Bloody hell, pointing out the obvious to MDNs take makes a poster a troll. Only on this forum would such a mindless accusation be made automatically.

        piss off yourself wanker

        1. Yes, but didn’t you accuse MDN of something that hasn’t happened yet? Can you at least wait until they do it?

          As for whether they are right or wrong, let me just say, I’m Chinese, born there, schooled there, worked there and had a home there until I sold it last year. MDN’s take is mostly right from my own experience. I will be going back to China in April, and interestingly, I will be visiting an ancestral home near Zhengzhou, where Foxconn’s newest plant is. I will try to get my nephew to get a job there, though I think he’s far too lazy to even try. I’m too old to try, but I’d do it, if only to satisfy my own curiosity.

  8. The real stress is lack of work. No income is highly stressful and lacking a job decreases moral. Unemployment creates conditions that lead some people to consider suicide. These students are missing the real dilemma relating to work.

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