Apple lobbying against U.S. bill aimed at stopping Uighur forced labor in China

According to two congressional staffers who The Washington Post claims are “familiar with the matter,” Apple lobbyists are trying to weaken a bill aimed at preventing Uighur forced labor in China.

Reed Albergotti for The Washington Post:

Quality assurance, iMac production, China (Image via Apple's Supplier Responsibility 2020 Progress Report)
Quality assurance, iMac production, China (Image via Apple’s Supplier Responsibility 2020 Progress Report)
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would require U.S. companies to guarantee they do not use imprisoned or coerced workers from the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, where academic researchers estimate the Chinese government has placed more than 1 million people into internment camps. Apple is heavily dependent on Chinese manufacturing, and human rights reports have identified instances in which alleged forced Uighur labor has been used in Apple’s supply chain.

The staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks with the company took place in private meetings, said Apple was one of many U.S. companies that oppose the bill as it’s written. They declined to disclose details on the specific provisions Apple was trying to knock down or change because they feared providing that knowledge would identify them to Apple. But they both characterized Apple’s effort as an attempt to water down the bill.

“What Apple would like is we all just sit and talk and not have any real consequences,” said Cathy Feingold, director of the international department for the AFL-CIO, which has supported the bill. “They’re shocked because it’s the first time where there could be some actual effective enforceability.”

Apple spokesperson Josh Rosenstock said the company “is dedicated to ensuring that everyone in our supply chain is treated with dignity and respect. We abhor forced labor and support the goals of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. We share the committee’s goal of eradicating forced labor and strengthening U.S. law, and we will continue working with them to achieve that.”

Now that the bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), is in front of the U.S. Senate, corporations have made more of a concerted effort to shape it, in part to blunt some of its sharper provisions, according to the two congressional staffers.

MacDailyNews Take: So, the issues are manyfold. One provision in the bill requires public companies to certify to the SEC that their products are not made using forced labor from Xinjiang. If companies are found to have used forced labor from the region, they could be prosecuted for securities violations. But, China has transferred Uighurs out of Xinjiang to work in other parts of the country, so it’s difficult, if not downright impossible, for any company to ensure that Uighur forced labor isn’t involved, even indirectly.

Therefore, you’d have a law that can extract penalties from companies that are forced to certify something to the SEC that cannot reasonably be known. So, actions that some (two anonymous “congressional staffers” from among a nearly uncountable number of congressional staffers) may wish to characterize as attempts to “water down,” may in actuality be companies’ striving to craft a law that’s instead realistic and useful rather than a mechanism that can be used to extract fines from companies, at any time, without end, even from those like Apple that are clearly trying to do the right things in China.

Forced labor is abhorrent and we would not tolerate it in Apple and so I would love to get with your office and engage on the legislation… We wouldn’t tolerate it. We would terminate a supplier relationship if it were found. — Apple CEO responding to questions from Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO) in July 2020

Apple’s 2020 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report is here.


  1. To extract fines, wouldn’t SEC have to provide evidence?

    If SEC could find evidence, couldn’t the companies find it first (they are there on the ground; SEC is not) – take appropriate action – and avoid the fines?

    Sounds like watering down to me…

    1. Apple supplier gets a load of Uighur slaves in from the CCP. Doesn’t inform or outright lies to Apple. Uighur slaves assemble tens of thousands of iPhone component units.

      Months later someone snitches and the news breaks.

      SEC “investigates” and fines Apple millions of dollars. Apple cuts supplier and goes on search for a replacement.

      Apple did nothing wrong, still gets whacked by the SEC under a poorly-conceived law.

      1. To be clear, there are no “slaves”. Uighurs are paid well (much more so relatively to millions of slave labour in the USA where convicts “volunteer” to work for $0.6 to allow even such basic need as a monthly call that arbitrary priced at $8 a minute).

        Also, China’s policies in regards to the region are designed to deal with radical Islam which has causes terrorist to commit about 700 (!) terrorist acts in China. The terrorists are supported by Turkey, the USA and the UK, of course — just as they were/are in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

        Also, the China’s reeducation program has been completed by the summer of last year, so there is even no subject to worry about.

        Finally, the “academic” “researches” the original article mentions come from a rapture Christian fundamentalist who has said that God’s goal for his is to fight China; a complete lunatic whose fantasies are used for propaganda to brainwash people in Wests into supporting radical Islamists in China just as they did with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

    1. Diversify the locations of where stuff is made Apple. Asia-Europe-America (US)….

      Instead of 300 billion dollars in buybacks, the number would be 200 billion dollars (it still spends the same 8 million dollars or 12 million dollars)…

  2. I don’t see it as a “love of communism,” but a compromise of any values, except those related to personal/corporate gain. As long as “we” can proceed with our concerns and be relatively free from implication in the malfeasance associated with you, we’re good.

    It’s nothing but a loud-blind-eye as the company tries to free itself from association…but the fact remains that Apple is working within and with a country with numerous curiosities that are destructive (humanly, culture-wise and related to freedom). These “curiosities” have been justified for decades with the hope China would liberalize. We’ve “forgotten” about liberalization because the nectar is just too sweet.

    Materialism reigns in this discussion…there’s no other way to frame it. To create waves that would actually make a difference and, I don’t mean better shielding (disguising) Apple from implication, would have material change on Apple’s stock price and would likely have an effect on the WW economy.

    That would obviously be just too unpleasant. Meanwhile the Uyghurs would like to help us understand, what “unpleasant” actually means.

    (No, I’m not (completely) blind to how hard the decision would be to bring change. I wouldn’t want to be Cook/Apple leadership).

    1. But what better way for a Capitalist corporation to express corporate love for a money making operation in a Communist nation than to patronize that Communist nation?

  3. I don’t think it’s that complicated. China offers a cheap and proven way to get the goods out. Give all appearances you’re not involved, nor approve of bad things happening “over there” and, all’s good.

    Is it any wonder there’s a lot of discontent out there? If leaders do nothing but secure and support the/their financial sector, someone is getting f’d. It’s effects are progressive and progressively corrosive.

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