Coincidence? At the same time as the increasing rumors that Apple’s new iPad 3 would be released on Mar. 7, the I.T. company reports that the industry-related Fair Labor Association began inspections at the suppliers that had fallen into disrepute. With that, the message is probably supposed to mean that all Apple fans could look forward to the new tablets with a clear conscience. In spite of intensifying problems with patent rights in China, Apple’s stock prices then promptly rose to over $500 for the first time.
But the reality is more complex. First of all, Apple’s announcement shows that even the most profitable company in the world can neither be indifferent to the protests and suicides of its manufacturing partners nor the campaigns of workers’ rights organizations. The announcement is Apple’s admission that prior attempts to supervise manufactures and suppliers have failed and that the earlier criticism was justified.
Then, it is good that the company is finally reacting. Yet a closer look reveals that the FLA engaged in the inspections is primarily financed and governed by the companies whose manufacturers they inspect. To consider this an independent inspection would be confusing apples with oranges. The new inspections may hinder the worst abuses, but they serve the P.R. of Apple first and foremost.
As long as the affected workers continue to be denied basic rights like the right to organize and the right to strike, there will be scandalous work conditions again and again. Apple’s current measure may help take the edge off of the growing criticism of consumers; however, the affected workers need further support to be able to enforce their rights.