“Occupy Apple” protest urges transparency

“Occupy Apple” protest urges transparency

Change.org reps ask Apple to make safer work environments.

About a dozen people gathered outside of Apple’s newest store inside Grand Central Terminal at 10 a.m. on Thursday to protest the unethical working conditions of Chinese factories that make Apple products.

“We delivered 250,000 signatures for a petition asking Apple to develop an ethical iPhone,” said Shelby Knox, 25, organizing director at Change.org, one of the petition websites at the forefront of the protests against Apple.

The petition would request Apple to do two things. First, release a worker protection strategy for new product releases. Second, release the results from monitoring by the Fair Labor Association – which will monitor Apple’s suppliers for compliance with rigorous health and safety codes – to increase transparency.

Three representatives from Change.org presented the Apple store manager with a box containing the petition signatures, which were collected online through Change.org and Sumofus.org.

“They were very prepared for us to come. They were very polite. They listened,” Change.org human rights organizer Sarah Ryan, 23, said.

The Apple store denied access to the large media contingent during the protest, but the protesters who attended were allowed up the stairs into the store.

“We didn’t come to protest against Apple. We came to let them know they can be an incredible game changer,” said Upper West Side resident Dan Bryk-Mcginn, who works extensively with Macintosh computers at his job.

Apple store workers declined to comment on the protest.

Similar protests were held in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles as well as Bangalore, India, and Sydney, Australia. Protesters brought boxes of the same 250,000 petition signatures to Apple stores in those cities.

In New York, Ryan said she chose the Grand Central Terminal location over Apple’s other stores for its indoor, protective environment and high visibility. “If you look at people here who come in and out, they’re the ones who use iPhones,” she said.

The petition was sparked in part by the atrocities presented on ‘This American Life’ by Mike Daisey, who was present at the New York protest. After the show was aired in January, the New York Times published an investigative article revealing the hazardous practices of many factories producing Apple products in China.

Two weeks ago, Washington, D.C., resident Mark Shields decided to post a petition on Change.org to call for greater transparency by Apple in improving working conditions.

The petition states that the men and women who create Apple products develop carpal tunnel syndrome in their wrists and hands. “I want to know that when I buy products from you, it’s not at the cost of horrible human suffering,” Shields wrote.

Apple has two years to bring its suppliers in line with these regulations. Its website states: “Our suppliers must adopt strict safety standards and provide workers with safety training. And we’re working with our suppliers to roll out employee assistance programs to improve worker well-being.”

As activists and consumers await Apple’s response to the petitions, several say they will not be purchasing the iPhone 5 when it comes out later this year.

“I’ll find an alternative,” said Stephen Groth, 58, an avid Apple user who came from Westchester for the protest.

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