Amid renewed reports of poor working conditions at factories making Apple products in China, it's unclear whether customers will demand change.
Some Apple customers at the Macworld/iWorld show in San Francisco Thursday seemed to react with a shrug to a lengthy New York Times story alleging poor working conditions at Chinese factories operated by Apple contractors. The story described fatal accidents at some plants, long work hours and crowded living conditions in dorms near work.
The report is unlikely to change Apple customers' buying habits, said Steve Hathaway, a show attendee from Hercules, California.
"Most all companies are getting their stuff made and shipped from elsewhere 'cause it's cheaper," he said.
Hathaway was asked if Apple customers would pay more for products from companies that ensure safety. "Apple already has a premium price, you'd think they should be doing something on their end of it to make it right, you know?" he said. "It isn't like they're passing on a huge savings to us compared to other PC makers."
But Victor Cajiao, who operates Typicalmacuser.com, thinks attitudes will eventually change, although Apple isn't the only electronics company with working-condition challenges. Customers will pay more, "especially Apple people who are known for being liberal and more aware of these things," he said. "But I think the stirring of the pot of this recent story has been good to make people take a second look. It's every piece of electronics, folks."
Apple representatives did not respond to requests for comment on the new report.
Over at Change.org, an online petition site, about 10 current petitions address Apple's relationship to Chinese factories. One petition, started late last year, asks Apple to end "slavery" conditions at its Foxconn contractor site. More than 500 people have signed that petition.
A second petition, started in mid-2011, says, "Dear Apple: No factory workers should die making our iPad." More than 190 people have signed that petition.
"The product release schedule of new Apple products is literally killing people," the petition says. "During peak periods of demand for the iPad, workers were allowed just one day off for every 13 worked, and were asked to work excessive overtime hours."
Another petition, started this week, asks Apple to protect Chinese workers. Apple products are "awesome," said Mark Shields of Washington, D.C., who started the petition. "Do you know the fastest way to replace 'awesome' with a terrible knot in your stomach?" he wrote. "Learning that your beloved Apple products are made in factories where conditions are so bad, it's not uncommon for workers to permanently lose the use of their hands."
Shields, a communications consultant, said he was "horrified" to hear of working conditions in Apple partner factories through a story on the radio show "This American Life," which he listened to using an Apple laptop and an Apple AirPort Wi-Fi router. "I hope they can do better," he said. "I know they can do better."
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