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BBC documentary highlights conditions at a Chinese iPhone factory, but is it all Apple's fault?

Kirk McElhearn | Dec. 22, 2014
There's clearly a problem, but no one company deserves all the blame.

But is Apple truly at fault? China Labor Watch has highlighted how a Samsung factory used child labor and how toy workers are exploited. In fact, their website contains a 2013 report about Apple's Unkept Promises, which is very close to the title of the BBC documentary, and which seems to be its source; nowhere in the credits of the documentary is this mentioned, nor is it specified if the hidden-camera footage came from this 18-month-old investigation.

Apple's Senior Vice President of Operations Jeff Williams sent an email to the entire UK staff saying he and Tim Cook were "deeply offended by the suggestion that Apple would break a promise to the workers in our supply chain or mislead our customers in any way." Williams said that Apple shared information with the BBC in advance that was missing from the final program, but said, "We can still do better. And we will." You can read the full email here.

There is clearly a problem with working conditions in developing nations, whether it be the sweatshops that make our clothes, or the factories that make our tech gadgets. It's essential to highlight them, and to work to improve them. But to single out Apple, because the company is an easy target, is simply shoddy journalism. Is Apple doing enough to change the way other countries treat their workers? I imagine that Tim Cook would say that they can never do enough--at least I hope so. But can Apple alone change these conditions? I think it would be more productive to lean on each and every company that manufactures goods in these countries, not just the biggest, and stop letting all the others off the hook.


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