Bad Apple: San Francisco Protest Against Tech Giant

Protesters Demand Better Labor Practices
Bianca Gonzalez | 07/08/2014

Apple products being pushed here in the US and other countries gets people excited, but it never crosses your mind how exactly they’re able to push out a new product every year.

Tuesday afternoon on July 1 protesters gathered outside the Apple store on Stockton. These labor and community groups organized to call attention to Apple’s labor practices overseas and here in the Bay Area. Groups such as Chinese Progressive Association SF, BAYAN-USA, Jobs with Justice SF and United Students Against Sweatshops gathered together with the common goal to call out Apple and stand up for the rights of their workers in overseas factories and their security workers in the Bay Area. They presented a letter to the manager at the local Apple store stating what they want Apple Corporate to change.

roject Officer from the Hong Kong based labor rights group, Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), wants American consumers to care for “the workers that produce for a new product every year and rush to purchasing a product,” said Liang Pui Kwan in an interview.

Liang Pui said she wanted consumers to care about the “fact that Chinese workers and also workers all around the world were exploited because they were forced to complete large-scale, unachievable working quotas in such a short period of time.”

The January 2012 New York Times article “In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad” reported many instances similar to the protesters’ complaints. The article said that Apple pushes production of their products to be done fast, while their their factory workers are paid less than a living wage, with few or no benefits and excessive overtime.

Here in the Bay Area, protestors say Apple has poor labor practices when it comes to their security workers and janitorial workers. Charles Wilson a security officer who organizes for SEIU said in an interview, “The security workers from Apple work for a company called SIS. They are the most difficult to talk to, They are terrified of talking to us. They can get fired. I have seen it happen.”

Apple contracts with SIS for their security and janitorial workers. According to the letter given by the protesters that afternoon, former and current workers are accusing the company of wage theft, racial and gender discrimination, as well as workers surveillance, retaliation and intimidation.

The letter that community organizers delivered to the Apple Store Manager was asked to be passed on to their higher ups. Demands in the letter included respecting workers’ rights to organize and enforcing a fair code of conduct for their contractors and suppliers.

In a statement by Apple in July 2013 in response to report by China Labor Watch they said, “Apple is committed to providing safe and fair working conditions throughout our supply chain. We lead the industry with far-reaching and specialized audits.”

The protesters don’t believe they are abiding by their code of conduct. One of the supporters at the protest was SF Board of Supervisor for District 1, Eric Mar. “I’m here to call Apple to live up to their code of conduct and to treat workers decently and uphold human labor rights of workers,” Mar said in an interview.

When asked about how the manager at the Apple Store received the letter, the Regional Coordinator of Bayan-USA, Faye Lacanilao, said, “He seemed like he was listening to us and genuinely wanted to address our presence, but he felt really limited in what he could do.”

“We urged him really to lobby for us when he does talk to all the people in Apple corporate up there,” she continued.

Lacanilao was there to call attention to the an Apple parts manufacturer in the Philippines, NXP semiconductors. There were 24 workers fired in the collective bargaining process. They are still fighting to get their jobs back along with fair working conditions.

The protesters want consumers to join them in demanding changes. “We know that Apple products are everywhere I have an Apple phone, I’m an Apple consumer so this is an awareness campaign to really push people who actually use Apple products to make apple do the right thing,” said Executive Director of Chinese Progressive Association SF, Alex Tom. “Apple is a bad apple and we can turn them into a good apple if we want,” he continued.

It seems the awareness campaign already worked for one passerby. “It’s definitely opened my eyes maybe next time I’ll think twice before buying Apple products” said Chris, a tourist from London.

“Given the standard price points of their products they can definitely afford to pay the living wage for their workers. To find out that isn’t happening is disappointing from a customer perspective,” Chris said.