Shareholder meetings in normal circumstances are rather boring affairs for those not interested in the nuances of corporate governance. But when Apple holds its annual meeting on Thursday, there will be issues besides election of board members and potential dividends on people’s minds.
Two former iPhone factory workers in China, who were critically injured at Apple supplier Wintek’s plant in 2009, are looking to take advantage of Apple’s yearly meeting by attracting attention to the conditions at factories where Apple’s most important products are assembled.
SumOfUs.org is distributing a petition from Gou Rui-qiang and Jia Jing-chuan, both of whom suffered nerve damage from using n-hexane, a toxic chemical, to clean iPhone screens at the factory. One hundred and thirty-five of their colleagues also reported being sickened. Apple no longer allows the chemical to be used, and Wintek reportedly compensated some of the medical treatment, but Gou and Jia want Apple to pay up.
“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,” the petition reads.
The goal of the petition, which has 84,000 signatures so far, is to get a total of 100,000 names before delivering it to CEO Tim Cook at the shareholder meeting on Thursday.
There has never been such intense scrutiny of the people who build Apple’s products or the places where they work as now. SumOfUs is the same group that helped back the original petition calling for the manufacturing of “an ethical iPhone,” which brought further attention to the plight of workers in Apple factories in China brought to light by the New York Times last month. SumOfUs and Change.org delivered thousands of signatures to some Apple locations earlier this month. Shortly thereafter Apple announced the Fair Labor Association would be inspecting its third-party manufacturing plants in China.
The investigations began last week, with the head of the FLA saying plublicly that it has found “tons of issues” at Foxconn plants. Apple also arranged for ABC News to get exclusive access to its factories. The Verge has a good roundup of what few new things were revealed by ABC’s tour. Perhaps not too surprisingly, the head FLA auditor told ABC it expected Foxconn to “put on a show” for FLA auditors and the cameras.
Apple’s shareholder meeting, the first for Cook in his official capacity as CEO, takes place at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Thursday at 10 a.m. PT.