Connect to share and comment

The digital world, explained.

iPhone Foxconn factory workers demand change

Two workers at a Foxconn factory, the makers of the iPhone, are demanding reforms and pleading for help.
Foxconn workers speak out 2012 02 23Enlarge
A group of protestors from SACOM (Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour) demonstrate outside the Foxconn annual general meeting (AGM) in Hong Kong on May 18, 2011. Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn has been accused of treating its workers 'machines' according to SACOM. At least 13 Foxconn employees died in apparent suicides last year. (Mike Clarke/AFP/Getty Images)

The makers of the iPhone, the actual workers who assemble the phones for sometimes 18 hours a day, have released an open letter to the American public demanding better working conditions.

In the letter, released to the SumOfUs organization, the workers said that a mass poisoning took place at the factory when laborers used the n-hexane chemical to clean iPhone screens. They claim that n-hexane has caused some workers to suffer neurological damage.

More from GlobalPost: Foxconn protests: workers reportedly threatened suicide

Dear SumOfUs Members and Friends

You don’t know us but you have seen our work. Until recently, we worked long hours assembling Apple’s iPhone touch screens in Suzhou, China.

In early 2010, it was independently confirmed that 137 workers, including us, were poisoned by a chemical called n-hexane which was used to clean iPhone screens. N-hexane is known to cause eye, skin and respiratory tract irritation, and leads to persistant nerve damage. Apple admitted to gross labour rights violations more than a year later.

If more people know about what we went through, Apple will feel pressured to change so other workers don’t have to suffer like we did.

Can you share this letter with your friends, and ask them to join you in signing our petition calling for a reform of working conditions at their factories?

We have been pressuring Apple, and its new CEO Tim Cook, for years to compensate those of us who were injured working for them, and demanding reform of working conditions at their Chinese factories so that their workers don’t suffer like we do. Now we need your help as customers or potential customers of Apple.
We need your help to send a message to Apple before their shareholder meeting on Thursday, Feb. 23rd. We want to see a strict corporate social responsibility and reform of the audit system to prevent similar tragedies in the future. He will listen to you as current or potential consumers.

You’ve already signed the petition, and 82,000 others have too — for that, we thank you. We believe it’d be symbolicly powerful if 100,000 people signed the petition before SumOfUs delivers it to Tim Cook on Thursday at their shareholder meeting. We’re really close to that goal, but we need you to share our request with your friends to get over the edge.

Can you share our letter with your friends, and ask them to sign the petition too?

It has been over two years since many of us were hospitalized and treated but our debilitating symptoms continue. Rui-Qiang still can’t find work because he can no longer stand for the long hours most jobs require. Jing-Chuan has to spend nearly $100 a month on health supplements.

But with all of us working together to pressure Apple to change, we can make sure what happened to us doesn’t happen to others too.

- Guo Rui-qiang and Jia Jing-chuan

More from GlobalPost: Apple Computer: Company to allow outside auditors, big problems remain 

Apple has recently come under heavy scrutiny for working conditions at Foxconn, the manufacturer of Apple products, with 13 factories located in nine of China’s largest cities. In a piece for NPR’s This American Life last January, Mike Daisey, an actor, went undercover as a wealthy businessman to see the factory for himself and gave a harrowing account of working conditions inside the Foxconn plant. His account set off a string of news reports that would bring Foxconn to the front pages of the world’s largest newspapers and force the manufacturer to pledge to improve wages and working conditions.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-grid/iphone-factory-workers-demand-change