American and Chinese academics, as well as labor activists and NGO’s, have denounced Apple’s recent move to have the ostensibly independent Fair Labor Association inspect its factory processes.
“The results of the report will be debatable, as the FLA is known for its lenient code of conduct regarding labor rights,” said Yang You-ren, a professor at Tunghai University in Taiwan.
Recent reports investigating the history of the FLA have uncovered the core participation of major international corporations with vested interest in the project, such as Nike and Liz Claiborne.
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Yang maintains that the organization has achieved little in improving conditions for workers, and functions largely as a shield for large companies. He accused Apple of “trying to pretend that everything is going well.”
Many Chinese unions were of a mind, with Youngie Woe of the Taiwan International Workers’ Association passing on the generally low opinion of the FLA as an organ of change.
“It is nothing but a public relations strategy,” Wuo opined, with the grand finale being the unveiling of the FLA’s glowing report and Apple’s swelling, brand re-affirming pride in its supply chain.
A similar view was echoed state-side by labor rights groups, with Jeff Ballinger of Press for Change calling the FLA “largely a fig leaf.”
Still, if public awareness can be focused long and hard enough, real change may be possible. One thing seems clear, though: however we may like its pretty metaphorical face, nobody wants to see Apple’s metaphorical genitals.