The Fair Labor Association has announced that Apple has become the first tech company to join as a Participating Company. The agreement means that Apple will allow the FLA to independently examine the facilities of its supply chain members, and will agree to uphold FLA’s Workplace Code of Conduct, as well as their Principles of Fair Labor and Responsible Sourcing. This agreement is a follow-up to the FLA’s cooperation with Apple last year to examine the training programs Apple offers employees of its supply chain companies.
This announcement follows the release of Apple’s Supplier Responsibility Progress Report (PDF). The report examines the practices of the companies in Apple’s supply chain for their practices regarding labor and human rights, worker health and safety, and environmental impact. It also examines how well suppliers adhere to Apple’s own code of conduct. As part of this year’s report, Apple released a list of its suppliers. The list, which consists of 150 companies, is an unprecedented relaxing of Apple’s normally fierce secrecy. In an email to the company, CEO Tim Cook said that the goal of both the progress report and the company’s decision to join the FLA is to “make sure that working conditions are safe and just,” and said that “if a manufacturer won’t live up to our standards, we stop working with them.”
All this comes amid criticism about the labor practices in the facilities of some of Apple’s suppliers. This American Life recently conducted a study of conditions at Foxconn, the main manufacturer of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, and found conditions there were troubling. The report, a transcript of which can be found here, claimed that Foxconn was in the habit of employing underage workers. Outside inspections tend not to find these workers because Foxconn knows when the inspections are about to happen, and replaces its underage workforce with older workers.
Though the claim that “Your iPhone was built by 13 year-olds” is certainly an overstatement, the report from This American Life is disconcerting. However, it looks like Apple is making - or trying to make - positive steps towards improving the conditions for the workers who make its products.[Source: Fair Labor Association]