Although Apple claims to be a socially responsible company, some of its suspected Chinese suppliers, such as Foxconn, Dafu and Lian Jian Technology, routinely violate China’s “Law on the Prevention and Control of Occupational Diseases.” A report from China’s Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, “The Other Side of Apple,” criticized the company for harmful environmental and health practices in suppliers’ plants.
In one example, several manufacturers replaced alcohol with n-hexanein the parts cleaning process. The chemical works better than alcohol but poisons workers and in some instances the workers, often women in their teens or 20s, were forced to work with the poison in unventilated rooms. Because of the chemical’s use in Lian Jian Technology’s Suzhou No. 5 plant, 49 employees were admitted to the hospital when they became ill. Other workers are suspected to have been poisoned but were “pushed out” of the plant before they showed signs of illness, forced by Lian Jian “to sign papers saying they would not hold the company accountable.” According to one worker, “They left with 80 or 90 thousand yuan [$12 - $14,000] that they got in exchange for their lives and health, with fees and medical costs they would have to pay for the rest of their lives.”
In another example, Foxconn saw 12 employees jump from buildings to commit suicide in less than six months, apparently due to exhaustion or stress from being forced to work illegal overtime. And a Dafu plant forces female workers to remove all clothing, in plain view of other workers, for search daily before leaving the facility.
Among IT companies, known to create heavy metal pollution, Apple is unique in its unwillingness to answer questions or participate with NGOs in instituting best practices programs. As is the case in many developing countries, cheap products are often made and exported by Chinese companies, dumping the pollution in their own backyards.
“Rotten Apple: iPod Sweatshops Hidden in China,” Dan Margolis, People’s World, January 25, 2011. http://www.peoplesworld.org/rotten-apple-ipod-sweatshops-hidden-in-china/
Student Researcher: Aluna Soupholphakdy, Sonoma State University
Faculty Evaluator: Elaine Wellin, Sonoma State University