The Nike child labor controversy surfaced in a 1996 Life magazine story and consumer outrage prompted big changes in the way Nike manages its global supply chain and all this took some time. In contrast, the New York Times story on labor practices at the Chinese supplier factories of Apple of just two weeks ago seems to have accelerated the on-line petitions at Change.org and Sumofus.org now totalling in excess of 250,000 in a matter of days !
CNN reports that today a group of a dozen peaceful protesters went with boxes of printouts of these signatures and handed them over to managers of Apple stores. Apple meanwhile has put out the following statement, that is widely reported and also appears on the Apple Website:
“provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made. Our suppliers must live up to these requirements if they want to keep doing business with Apple.”
What is amazing is the rapid traction this protest could achieve in a very short time. Apple's main website i.e. www.apple.com on the day of this post has the "Supplier Responsibility" picture on the home page along with the usual marketing messages and links about iPad etc.
The Apple protest-response is among the first cases of the global supply chain needing to respond to customer dissatisfaction that includes moderately problematic issues (e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome) in the developing world, where employment itself is really special for those at the bottom of the pyramid. Perhaps the diffusion of these subtler human working standards globally will be helped by this movement. Contact StratoServe.