Samsung Corp. has to be feeling a little picked on these days. Mere weeks after it lost a patent battle with Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), a watchdog agency has reported that Samsung is violating workers' rights.
According to Wall Street Journal and BBC reports, China Labor Watch found incidents of forced overtime, underage workers, and poor working conditions in a number of Samsung factories. Samsung owns several factories in China and outsources to others.
The charges are similar to those that have been directed at Apple, which outsources much of its manufacturing to Foxconn Electronics Inc. After its accusations surfaced, Apple agreed to let a third party audit Foxconn's facilities. The BBC says Samsung has not agreed to third-party audits. This is clearly a mistake. Already a high-profile company, Samsung will be in the spotlight for the foreseeable future as it battles the Apple verdict. The labor charges won't just disappear. Even if Samsung weren't in the spotlight, investigating these allegations would be the right thing to do.
Samsung hasn't faced nearly as much outrage as Apple did, and I have to wonder why. Is it because Apple is a US company and should know better? Is it because Apple is a bigger target? Or is it because people are no longer surprised these conditions exist?
I'm going with the last reason. There seems to be a kind of apathy around the topic now that Apple is fixing its problems. (For one thing, Foxconn has raised its wages.) But if we are to accept the California court's decision that Samsung's products are just like Apple's, it's not a stretch to assume they are built in factories just like Apple's.
The last time EBN was covering this issue, a reader made a good point. Instead of haranguing companies, shouldn't we be putting pressure on the Chinese government? It's no coincidence that all these reports are coming out of China. If you look hard enough, you'll find workers being abused at a lot more factories that are associated with brand names.
As bad as things look for Samsung, the company should be pressured to improve its working conditions. At the very least, it should let a third party inspect the factories.