Apple's Poisoned Workers Plead With Americans to Join Ethical iPhone Campaign
Do you know what it is like to suffer neurological damage from toxins? I do not. I am grateful I don't suffer from such toxicological poisoning. The Chinese workers employed at an Apple supplier factory did not expect to be poisoned. They did not expect to be suffering neurological damage when they signed on for long hours. They only wanted to improve their lives. The opposite happened and now, for some, it appears too late to reverse the damage.
But it is not too late for them to protect others from suffering their fate. It is not too late to speak up. And that is what they are doing in a letter which is a lead-up to Apple's annual shareholder meeting Thursday in Cupertino. They are speaking directly to Apple's global consumers in a cry to get the company to reform working conditions. The letter, released by consumer watchdog group SumOfUs, is an indication that these workers have gone beyond fear and are willing to express their concerns because of what they experienced at an Apple supplier factory, Wintek, in Suzhou, China.
Guo Rui-Qiang and Jia Jing-Chuan cleaned iPhone touch screens, again, again, and again. It was grueling, mind numbing factory work. And that is not all that was being numbed. The nerves in their hands were damaged by the cleaning agent, n-hexane, a chemical Wintek used instead of alcohol for its convenience. Workers exposed to n-hexane also experienced faintness and tiredness, sweaty hands and feet and swelling and pain in their feet. For some, like Rui-Qiang and Jing-Chuan, the damage permanently had an impact on their ability to work and sustain themselves with any quality of life. Apple acknowledged the incident it its annual report in February of 2011, one year after the strike at Wintek which was precipitated by the massive poisoning that was confirmed by the local authorities.
In its August 2011 statement, SACOM (Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior) a Hong-Kong based labor research group, noted a discrepancy between what happened at Wintek (poisoning and strike in 2010) and what Apple reported in its shareholders' report (2011). According to SACOM, about 200 workers were poisoned by the chemical n-hexane. Apple only acknowledged 137 workers were hospitalized and it stated that all had been successfully treated. However, the reality was different and workers were still suffering from debilitation. Both Rui-Qiang and Jing-Chuan came forward with their complaints in the SACOM statement. This was after they had turned to Apple for redress, but received no response.Continued on the next page