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Polishing the Apple

Cowboy hat By Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer - Fri., 3/9/12
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If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, will Apple Inc.'s public image get healthier now that it has hired an organization to monitor labor abuses in the foreign factories that make its products?

Practically all of the 70 million iPhones and 30 million iPads that the computer giant sold last year were produced in not-so-shining Chinese factories. One of the largest was recently exposed for 72-hour workweeks, forced overtime, child labor, chemical poisonings, deadly explosions, and more. Now, after years of refusing to allow independent scrutiny of such facilities, Apple honchos have thrown open the doors of foreign suppliers, so a group called the Fair Labor Association is free to inspect their Chinese factories.

Apple CEO Tim Cook positively glowed while declaring that workers everywhere have the right to safe and fair workplaces, pledging that FLA would be able "to independently assess" his company's performance.

Independently? Not so fast, Bucko. It turns out that FLA is notorious among anti-sweatshop groups for its coziness with corporate interests. How cozy? It is largely funded by its "cor-porate members"--the very firms being inspected! Indeed, in January, Apple became a corporate member of FLA, just in time to go public with its new pledge of openness.

Scott Nova is head of the Worker Rights Consortium, a legitimate anti-sweatshop group. As he dryly observed about the FLA-Apple deal: "Independent monitoring means you're generally independent of the companies."

Will FLA do an honest assessment--or just polish the Apple? To find out, stay in touch with the Worker Rights Consortium:

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