Today Apple became the first technology company to join the Fair Labor Association as a "Participating Company". The FLA will independently assess and report on the labor practices at the factories Apple uses to produce their products.
Apple also released their "Supplier Responsibility Report" today, which is the company's own analysis of the labor practices in their supply chain. For the first time their report also includes a list of Apple's top suppliers. This is crucial, since in the past it was very difficult for anyone to fully check their assertions without knowing which companies were involved.
In related news, if you didn't catch Mike Daisey's "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" last year, I recommend last week's episode of This American Life, which featured a long excerpt from Daisey's show. Even better, the second part of the show was devoted to fact-checking some of Daisey's assertions (most are true, but some, like the use of child labor, are not so clear) and some further analysis from economists and others. Highly recommended.
There is tons of room for improvement in these areas, but it looks like Apple is taking some very solid—and most importantly very public—steps in the right direction here. Hopefully the trend will continue, and more companies will follow suit. As Daisey says at the end of the TAL show, "we exported those jobs overseas, and we didn't send the protections [that we fought for] with them, and it's not right."