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Thursday, March 15, 2012, 03:01 pm PT (06:01 pm ET)

Labor protestors plan demonstrations for iPad launch

Protestors looking to steal a bit of Apple's iPad launch day thunder are preparing to hold demonstrations at various Apple Store locations on Friday in hopes of spreading awareness about the labor conditions in the Chinese factories making the device.

Instead of asking for broad third-party supplier labor reforms, investigations, and "an ethical iPhone, Change.org campaigners will take to Apple retail outlets on Friday in a push for Apple to build "an ethical iPad," reports GigaOM.

The protestors, lead by organizer Mark Shields, will take advantage of the hype surrounding the new iPad's launch and hold multi-store demonstrations when retail locations open at 8 a.m. in Washington, D.C., New York City and San Francisco.

Despite Apple's continuing efforts toward bettering labor conditions in its contracted factories in China, Shields says that more can be done.

“It’s great to see Apple taking important steps like the factory audit this month, and pay raises for the factory workers,” Shields said. “But Apple hasn’t crossed the finish line yet. New product releases, like the iPad 3 this week, have typically been the most dangerous for workers because of the incredible pressure they are under to meet release production deadlines.”

Shields' online petition asking for the protection of Chinese factory workers has gathered over 251,000 signatures, and has sparked a media blitz regarding the conditions under which Apple products are made. The movement first gained momentum when a pair of New York Times reports investigated major Chinese electronics builder Foxconn, which is a major Apple contractor, over alleged worker abuse.

Mark Shields

Mark Shields (left) speaking with reporters outside an Apple Store over labor concerns. | Source: The Washington Post


Despite Foxconn's impressive client list of electronic heavyweights that include Microsoft, HP and Sony, the burden of guilt has been placed squarely on Apple by Change.org and SumOfUs.org.

In response to the mounting criticism, Apple asked the Fair Labor Association to conduct an inspection of its third-party suppliers in Asia. Although the FLA noted that Foxconn's factories were "first class," the auditors did find that many issues needed to be resolved. Workers at the factory later claimed that Foxconn hid underage workers from inspectors in order to avoid scrutiny.

In Apple's annual supplier code of conduct, employees may be aged 16 to 18 years old if they can legally work, though special restrictions limit the type and amount of work they perform.

Most recently, it was reported that Apple allegedly conducted an inspection of an iPad factory run by Chinese company Pegatron immediately before a blast occurred that injured 61 people. The claim brings into question whether Apple's audits are effective in stopping workplace accidents.

The planned Friday protests follow a series of demonstrations in February, though the high turnout for the iPad launch is expected to bring a larger media presence for Change.org to exploit.