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Apple CEO Responds to Allegations of Labor Violations

Timothy Cook of {complink 379|Apple Inc.} is having a sweet and sour moment.

Apple posted the best quarterly financial performance in its history in the same week an article in The New York Times charged the company with turning a blind eye to violations of employee rights at its suppliers' manufacturing plants in China.

The New York Times did not get a response to its request for comments from Apple; the company is notorious for not responding to interview requests. However, Cook certainly read the article (and an earlier unflattering story in which Steve Jobs is quoted as telling President Obama, “Those jobs aren’t coming back”) and responded to some of the more serious allegations against the company in a message to employees. Cook rallied his team, telling them the company cares about every member of its supply chain. Further, Apple is opening up its operations to outside parties for monitoring, he said in the email.

Should Apple have responded to the interview requests? I think so, but Apple operates a public relations machinery quite unlike those of many of its peers. In some ways, Apple executives may be conditioned to believe they don't need to respond to allegations appearing in the press. Company executives are not often quoted in the press except for carefully scripted announcements. That's the Apple way, but the NYT articles obviously shook the company, and I expect it to be more responsive on this issue in future. Here's the full text of Cook's memo as published by 9to5mac.com:

    As a company and as individuals, we are defined by our values. Unfortunately some people are questioning Apple's values today, and I'd like to address this with you directly. We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don't care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It's not who we are.

    For the many hundreds of you who are based at our suppliers' manufacturing sites around the world, or spend long stretches working there away from your families, I know you are as outraged by this as I am. For the people who aren't as close to the supply chain, you have a right to know the facts.

    Every year we inspect more factories, raising the bar for our partners and going deeper into the supply chain. As we reported earlier this month, we've made a great deal of progress and improved conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers. We know of no one in our industry doing as much as we are, in as many places, touching as many people.

    At the same time, no one has been more up front about the challenges we face. We are attacking problems aggressively with the help of the world's foremost authorities on safety, the environment, and fair labor. It would be easy to look for problems in fewer places and report prettier results, but those would not be the actions of a leader.

    Earlier this month we opened our supply chain for independent evaluations by the Fair Labor Association. Apple was in a unique position to lead the industry by taking this step, and we did it without hesitation. This will lead to more frequent and more transparent reporting on our supply chain, which we welcome. These are the kinds of actions our customers expect from Apple, and we will take more of them in the future.

    We are focused on educating workers about their rights, so they are empowered to speak up when they see unsafe conditions or unfair treatment. As you know, more than a million people have been trained by our program.

    We will continue to dig deeper, and we will undoubtedly find more issues. What we will not do — and never have done — is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain. On this you have my word. You can follow our progress at apple.com/supplierresponsibility.

    To those within Apple who are tackling these issues every day, you have our thanks and admiration. Your work is significant and it is changing people's lives. We are all proud to work alongside you.

16 comments on “Apple CEO Responds to Allegations of Labor Violations

  1. Susan Fourtané
    January 30, 2012

    I believe Tim Cook's sent out an honest message. Apple would have a lot to lose if they don't pay attention the issue. I don't blame Apple, though, if there have been labor violations at their suppliers. Apple has to keep a closer eye on its suppliers and be more strict with them. Educating the employees is a good step, I believe. 

    -Susan 

     

  2. bolaji ojo
    January 30, 2012

    Susan, I believe this is only step one, though. Apple talked with its employees but left out all of its other publics. The company refused to talk with the media or address shareholders and other investors about this. The memo was sent to employees and leaked to the media. Why not address this directly also with the press and use this medium to make its case more publicly.

  3. prabhakar_deosthali
    January 30, 2012

    By taking initiative in monitoring the suppliers labor policies, Apple is walking that extra mile which legally it is not required to but morally feels responsible for it.

    But what about the hiring and firing culture in American companies which fire the people by a few hours notice without caring how they will manage their daily bread for their family after the sudden loss of the job?

  4. rohscompliant
    January 30, 2012

    Seriously…….Apple has hitched the majority of it's manufacturing wagon to FOXCONN …..a company that is financed, backed and supported by a communist regime that does not believe in or cares about human rights. We are all complicit in this as long as we want low cost electronics, cars, appliances etc…..we will continue to buy products made in China because ………..well …….they are cheap and inexpensive. We have become a throw away society ………and i dont see anyone or any group bringing about fundamental change………if Apple wants to pick up the torch and try to fundamentally change the way business gets done in China….then more power to them…….not going to happen as long as their stock holders have a say in the matter………..who is foolin who……….myself included………..i just got 2 pairs of sweat pants @ Walmart over the weekend for $6.99 each mfg'd by Champion n made in ………..u guessed it ………..CHINA………….they cannot be made here in the USA to sell that low ………….we are all addicted!!!!……….who's foolin who???????

     

  5. bolaji ojo
    January 30, 2012

    rohscompliant, You said it. Actually, that's the subject of my next blog.

  6. rohscompliant
    January 30, 2012

    Glad to add to the discussion….

  7. Clairvoyant
    January 30, 2012

    I agree, Bolaji. It is good to see this memo from Apple's CEO, however they still have a long way to go. Another question is, how much has Apple been keeping secret?

  8. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 30, 2012

    Cook is in the best possible position to make these statements–he is intimate with Apple's supply chain. I'd be inclined to take his statements more seriously than an executive with less direct experience (no offense to past Apple CEOs.) It is clear he understands the nature of the challenge the company faces and is realistic about how much of a difference one company can make. Apple can use its considerable clout in the supply chain to improve conditions for many.

  9. bolaji ojo
    January 30, 2012

    Barbara, You are right. Cook is a master at supply chain and his involvement has been instrumental in getting Apple to where it is today. But he is as ignorant of the dangers of inept public relations as Apple's former CEO. The company's reputation and future is at stake here but it seems Apple believes it can continue winning by rallying its troop and ignoring the wider public.

    Apple enjoys tremendous public goodwill but it is likely to fritter this away if it doesn't mount a strong public relations offensive. All Apple has to do is have its executives openly discuss these issues, admit faults where relevant and spell out what they are doing to counter these problems. As you noted in your recent blog, Apple isn't the only culprit here. It just happens to be the most visible.

  10. Mr. Roques
    January 30, 2012

    Well, it's not like Apple is selling cheap products… someone in between is keeping the profit (based on the amount of money Apple is sitting on, I'm going to guess they are not paying enough to Foxconn).  Should they continue to make so much profit? or share the wealth?

  11. rohscompliant
    January 30, 2012

    You are missing the point of 'cheap'; Apple is just one VERY BIG example of how we as a consumer nation have become increasingly dependent upon low cost goods being produced primarily in CHINA and exported to the US. Apple produces a fine product that the world has come to love and cannot do without ……so it seems. As far as your comment about 'share the wealth' that sort of idea scares the heck out of me………………..Apple is entitled to reap whatever they shall sow……for better or worse………sharing wealth will ultimately squash innovation. I just wish Apple and other company's that no longer produce in the USA would reconsider bringing it back here………but that will not happen until the US gvt levels the tax playing field and makes it eenticing for company's to bring it back.

  12. rohscompliant
    January 30, 2012

    Probably more than you or I will ever know……..

  13. Susan Fourtané
    January 30, 2012

    Yes, Bolaji, I saw your point when reading your blog. 

    I am inclined to thinking that Apple prefers to first solve its issues in private, or as private as possible before. It makes sense to me, especially when the issue in question is concerning an accusation. 

    On the other hand, Apple's way in this case may lead to speculation and make a snow ball that could be not easy to stop.

    A company like Apple is probably aware of this, though. 

    -Susan 

  14. Taimoor Zubar
    January 31, 2012

    If that's the case then one should compare the working conditions at other Chinese manufacturers as well to get an idea of how similar the environment is to Foxconn's. If there isn't much difference in terms of labor treatment, then it's safe to assume that labor exploitation and mistreatment is a norm in China.

  15. Anne
    February 19, 2012
  16. Mr. Roques
    February 29, 2012

    I'm ok with Apple naming its price, thats perfectly fine. What I'm saying is that if they are charging a lot of money for their product, they can afford to pay the people making it, more. They are making a lot more money than they can spend.

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