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Friday, January 13, 2012

Apple Joins Fair Labor Association

Posted by on Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 12:25 PM

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."

 

Comments (12) RSS

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1
It's good that this issue is getting attention, but the FLA is thought by many activists to be an industry-controlled whitewashing group. That's why they formed the ACTUALLY independent Workers Rights Consortium as an alternative.
Posted by Kevin Erickson on January 13, 2012 at 12:34 PM · Report this
2
@1, in honor of that spirit I hereby announce I have become the first "Participating Commenter" to join the influential group I have just formed, "Gloomy Gus Kind and Loving", dedicated to fooling people into thinking I might be less of an asshole than I am.
Posted by gloomy gus on January 13, 2012 at 12:55 PM · Report this
Anthony Hecht 3
@1,2 - Yeah, the FLA might not be the ideal completely independent watchdog, but it's hard to argue that all of this isn't pretty positive, and that Apple is putting out a serious effort here. Listen to the TAL show, read the supporting materials they link to on their site, there's clearly real, demonstrable progress being made. It's not just a PR stunt.
Posted by Anthony Hecht on January 13, 2012 at 12:58 PM · Report this
nseattlite 4
Hard to see how TAL wasn't a major influence on this decision.
Posted by nseattlite on January 13, 2012 at 1:03 PM · Report this
5
"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."

To be clear, the report doesn't help one do that, because they still aren't connecting the violations to the specific suppliers. Without that information, it's impossible to hold the suppliers truly responsible.
Posted by Mike Daisey http://mikedaisey.com on January 13, 2012 at 1:05 PM · Report this
Dougsf 6
@2 - I would like to be a trustee of such a group, in which the Trustees are hereby vested with the general powers to all such things as may be necessary or conducive to redefining the term "asshole" in such a way to exonerate all Trustees and Participating Members from unsanctioned (i.e. "outside") definitions of said term.
Posted by Dougsf on January 13, 2012 at 1:13 PM · Report this
7
@6, and to keep secret all information we know would only hurt the public unnecessarily by forcing them to change their view of us. Or as dear Mike Daisey @5 notes, guard against connecting facts unnecessarily, since it's not polite to blow people's minds and stuff. (Mind you, I've typed this pearl of wisdom on an Apple thingy.)
Posted by gloomy gus on January 13, 2012 at 1:26 PM · Report this
Dougsf 8
At least discussing it publicly is a step in the right direction, I guess?

I wouldn't expect these reports to drill down in any further detail matching components to suppliers—they're a premium brand, not an OEM. It's not like it's impossible to figure out which Apple monitors uses the same panels as a particular Dell monitor, for example, but it's probably not information Apple would like to advertise themselves.
Posted by Dougsf on January 13, 2012 at 1:46 PM · Report this
prompt 9
Apple admits to using child labor
We should rush to Apple's defense in order to defend our menagerie of iPhones and iPads!
Posted by prompt on January 13, 2012 at 3:42 PM · Report this
10
"I wouldn't expect these reports to drill down in any further detail matching components to suppliers—they're a premium brand, not an OEM. It's not like it's impossible to figure out which Apple monitors uses the same panels as a particular Dell monitor, for example, but it's probably not information Apple would like to advertise themselves."

I'm not talking about the components--I'm saying that their reports about violations still don't specify where the violations happen, so then no one can do any follow-up or verification.
Posted by Mike Daisey http://mikedaisey.com on January 13, 2012 at 4:18 PM · Report this
watchout5 11
"we exported those jobs overseas, and we didn't send the protections [that we fought for] with them, and it's not right."

Shame on them and their overpriced paperweights.
Posted by watchout5 http://www.overclockeddrama.com on January 13, 2012 at 10:23 PM · Report this
12
The FLA is independent watchdoggery light to be sure. Pre-announced inspections are no better than no inspections imho.
Posted by econoline on January 13, 2012 at 11:19 PM · Report this

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