Crowds queued for hours outside Apple stores across America last night and early this morning, eagerly awaiting the debut of the new iPad. In New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C., the gadget-hungry customers were joined by dozens of protestors, who peacefully called on Apple to start making “ethical” products. They say the company’s main contractor—a Taiwanese manufacturing giant called Foxconn—mistreats the one million workers it employs on mainland China. The protestors were heavily outnumbered on the ground, but have gained a following online: in February, two human rights groups delivered a petition to Apple with 250,000 signatures.
But later on Friday, the story that sparked the protests, “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,” was retracted by This American Life, which said it contained significant fabrications.
Not that the retraction exonerates Foxconn, which makes more than half the world’s electronic gadgets. The company came in for some sharp criticism in January when CEO Terry Gou compared his workers to “animals” during a visit to the Taipei zoo. After that, stories by undercover Chinese reporters about life in the factories began to get international attention. They described poor working conditions, forced overtime, and a totalitarian corporate culture in which some traumatized employees injured themselves or even committed suicide. And here’s a BBC video interview with some disgruntled Foxconn workers.
Apple has taken steps to get Foxconn to change its working conditions. Otherwise, it’s suffering little fallout The company expects to sell more than a million of the new iPads by the end of the day and on Thursday Apple’s stock hit a record high, breaking $600 a share before falling back down to $585.
At least one Foxconn employee will be happy to see iPads selling well; he’d rather make iPads than iPhones. You can go straight to the source below, to read that story in translation.