Reports about Apple's behavior in China, conducted by way of its Taiwanese intermediaries at Foxconn, have been coming out for a number of years now. But perhaps none were as damning as the monster New York Times article that was just published. A few key allegations should be highlighted.
1) While Apple has been tediously slow to enforce its own worker guidelines at Foxconn, the leading supplier for iPad and iPhone assembly, lives have been needlessly lost.
"Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning."
2) While workers have been toiling at 72-hour work weeks, sometimes at less than Chinese minimum wage, Apple has posted record profits.
"Tuesday, Apple reported one of the most lucrative quarters of any corporation in history, with $13.06 billion in profits on $46.3 billion in sales."
3) Apple's complicity in Foxconn's abuse of its workers has not been incidental.
"We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on,' said one former Apple executive who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. 'Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice... If half of iPhones were malfunctioning, do you think Apple would let it go on for four years?'"
4) Steve Jobs sought to mislead the public about the actual conditions at Foxconn (well-documented by Apple, which has regular audits) telling attendees at a conference, "I mean, you go to this place, and, it’s a factory, but, my gosh, I mean, they’ve got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools, and I mean, for a factory, it’s a pretty nice factory."