Commentary from Jim Hightower

Polishing the Apple

Tuesday, February 21, 2012   |   Posted by Jim Hightower
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If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, will Apple Inc's public image get healthier now that it has hired an organization to monitor labor abuses in the foreign factories that make its products?

Practically all of the 70 million iPhones and 30 million iPads that the computer giant sold last year were produced in Chinese factories that don't exactly shine with good working conditions. One of the largest, for example, was recently exposed for 72-hour workweeks, forced overtime, child labor, chemical poisonings, deadly explosions, and other rottenness. However, after years of refusing to allow any independent scrutiny of such facilities, Apple honchos have now thrown open the doors of its foreign suppliers, loudly announcing that an outside group called the Fair Labor Association would be free to inspect their Chinese factories.

Bravo, right? Apple CEO Tim Cook positively glowed with self-satisfaction, declaring that workers everywhere have the right to safe and fair workplaces, and now, he pledged, FLA would be able "to independently assess" his company's performance.

Independently? Not so fast, Bucko. It turns out that FLA is notorious among anti-sweatshop groups for its coziness with corporate interests. How cozy? It is largely funded by its "corporate members" – the very firms being inspected! Indeed, in January, Apple became a corporate member of FLA, just in time to go public with its new pledge of openness.

Scott Nova is head of the Worker Rights Consortium, a legitimate anti-sweatshop group. As he dryly observed about the FLA-Apple deal: "Independent monitoring means you're generally independent of the companies."

Will FLA do an honest assessment – or just polish the Apple? To find out, stay in touch with the Workers Rights Consortium:

"Apple, In Shift, Pushes An Audit Of Sites In China," The New York Times, February 14, 2012.

"Critics Question Record of Monitor Selected by Apple," The New York Times, February 14, 2012.

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