Amidst hopeful reports of Apple inviting organizations, like the Fair Labor Association (FLA), and other outside organizations to inspect the working conditions across its Foxconn supplier factories in China, a worrying instance of distress, from elsewhere in the country has raised its head. In an open letter, written to Sum Of Us, a body campaigning to ensure workers receive fair treatment, two workers assembling Apple’s iPhone touch screens in a unit in Suzhou, China have revealed that prolonged hours of contact with n-hexane, a toxic chemical used to clean iPhone screens has caused them 'persistent nerve damage'. The workers, Gou Rui-qiang and Jia Jing-chuan have in their letter to Sum Of Us, stated that, "In early 2010, it was independently confirmed that 137 workers, including us, were poisoned by a chemical called n-hexane which was used to clean iPhone screens. N-hexane is known to cause eye, skin and respiratory tract irritation, and leads to persistant nerve damage. Apple admitted to gross labour rights violations more than a year later."
Hoping for a change
The letter further reads, "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. We need your help to send a message to Apple the day before their shareholder meeting. We want to see a strict corporate social responsibility and reform of the audit system to prevent similar tragedies in the future. He will listen to you as current or potential consumers."
According to the letter, both Gou Rui-qiang and Jia Jing-chuan have been so badly affected by their prolonged contact with the toxic chemical that Rui-qiang, who is now unemployed, finds it difficult to stand in queues for longer hours; a task most job seekers have to undergo, while Jing-Chuan is forced to spend nearly $100, each month on health supplements.
Through the open letter, both these workers are inviting "customers or potential customers of Apple" to come forward and sign a petition, which Sum Of Us would deliver to Apple CEO, Tim Cook at the company's shareholder meeting, held yesterday. Interestingly, so far, some 84,000 people have already signed the petition.