Apple products are made in factories that regularly employ young teenagers, constantly work people more than 60 hours per week, and falsify records to cover up their misdeeds. That's according to the shameless gossiping muckrakers at... uh, Apple Inc.
The company's brightly-named "Supplier Responsibility 2010 Progress Report" (PDF) contains some dark information about the contractors who actually make Apple products, mostly overseas and mostly in China.
Like workers who were really 15 when they were supposed to be at least.... uh, 16, the ideal age for anyone in a factory:
As Fake Steve Jobs put it, teenagers have "tiny fingers, sharp eyes" — perfect, he ventures, for making little digital devices.
Also, it sounds like pretty much everyone is working insanely long hours, in excess of 60 hours per week:
According to Apple's report, workers often pay for the privilege of working these hours via recruiting fees, which in eight facilities were so extortionate as to be in violation of local law.
At 24 factories, workers weren't even making the local (shitty) minimum wage. At 48, they were deprived of proper overtime. At 57, they were screwed on sick leave and other benefits. And so on and so on.
Then there was the lying: Three facilities were caught falsifying records for Apple on underaged labor and/or working hours, and one even got fired from doing business with Apple, for getting busted lying two years in a row. Apple has standards, you know.
The Apple fanboys, naturally, are already defending the company from the negative press that's come out of this report, saying other companies don't even bother to investigate suppliers as Apple does. AppleInsider quoted CEO Steve Jobs at the Apple shareholder meeting:
Jobs... passionately argu[ed] that the media and environmental groups have ignored the real issues to focus mainly on what promises companies were making, even though many companies do not actually meet their promised goals. Apple, Jobs said, was focused on actually achieving results.
Jobs's argument about achieving results rings hollow given that Apple got serious about this issue nearly four years ago. Apple launched audits — and promised progress — in response to a 2006 report in the Daily Mirror about low pay and marathon work hours at iPod factories in China.
Yet the past year has seen the violations cited in Apple's report, a worker at one of Apple's largest contractors, Foxconn, committing suicide after an aggressive interrogation by Foxconn security, and the reported roughing up at least two journalists investigating Apple product factories.
In response, from Apple, we have a report that names no names, specifies very few penalties and generally offers to fix things with toothless or meaningless correctives like "detailed standards," "appropriate management systems," "third-party consultants," self inspections, "management systems... to drive compliance," "management systems to ensure accurate payment," and the always reliable "clear policies and procedures."
If this is "achieving results," things must have been pretty terrible a few years ago. Perhaps Apple is making progress after all. And maybe, just maybe, in a couple of years, the 16-year-old child laborers in Apple product factories will pay legitimate fees to work 60-hour weeks for no less than the crappy local minimum wage. Progress!
(Pic: A customer at the first Apple Store in China, 2008, Getty Images.)