Tiny Foxconn Protest Storms Apple Store

There was supposed to be a protest at Apple's monstrous architectural annex in New York's Grand Central Station today. If you weren't looking for it, you'd would've only seen the usual commuter hell. But the protestors showed up. Four of them.

Two women from Change.org — one dressed as an iPhone, and one holding a large cardboard box, slowly marched up the palatial marble steps at the Apple Store's base. They were joined by Mike Daisey, whose stage work and recent NPR segment have churned up interest and outrage regarding the Apple supplier's allegedly suicide-inducing, inhumane labour practices..

Inside their box were a claimed 245,000 signatures asking for an "ethical iPhone" — one manufactured with improved working conditions for the Chinese labourers at Foxconn. A store manager named Ryan took the box, calmly, and handed it off to another employee, who probably threw it in the trash.

At this point, something of note finally happened. Out of nowhere appeared a group of men who looked like they'd kick down your door and headbutt you after a bad day at the racetrack. All clad in black jackets, some of them with a red eye logo and the letters "OIC" on their chests, the men told everyone who had climbed the steps with the protestors that they had to leave immediately. The small cadre of protestors were swarmed by press covering the protestors — probably 30 or 40 of us, a handful of NYPD, and a bunch of sad bourgeois people who spend their mornings loitering at the Grand Central Apple Store. The latter group was allowed to stay, but anyone with a camera was told instructed sternly to leave. Apple's jurisdiction, apparently, extends all the way to the bottom of the steps — an extremely large swath of space in a public train station.

I asked one of the black jacket brutes who he was with. "Security". The apparet leader — "Mitch" — admitted that he worked for Apple, but wouldn't elaborate. "Talk to Apple PR." When I approached one of Mitch's cohorts, he refused to say anything other than "ask an Apple executive." When I asked him if there were any Apple executives present at the store this morning, he gestured for Mitch to come over and punch me in the stomach, I guess. "Can you believe this?," the moustachioed enforcer asked Mitch. "This" being me standing by myself on the steps asking if he and his company were regular security for the Apple store, or if they'd been called in specially for the protest. Mitch, ominously, provided the only thing resembling an answer: "Sometimes I'm here and sometimes I'm not."

The protest was extremely small — I'm hesitant to even call it a protest. But it was a spectacle at an Apple Store, one of the most sanitised, rationalized retail operations in the universe. In a zone where everyone wears a neat blue shirt, asks how they can help, smiles, and sells beautiful things, it was temporary ugliness and hustle. Commuters stopped and asked what the small fuss was about? Why would anyone protest against Apple? We all have iPhones, right? Those behind the protest can only hope bedraggled commuters got a decent answer, or caught a glimpse of Apple's mustachioed South Jersey corporate gestapo, or at least looked at Manhattan's shimmering iPad castle as something other than that.



    *shrug* haters gonna hate.
    I will probably never buy an Apple product, but that's just because they don't suit me. But I do admire their strategy, tech and design.
    The Foxconn "issue" is IMHO pretty much a beat-up, because in all probability the workers building Apple's gear are no worse off (and possibly better off, as an incentive to actually do good work) than other Chinese factory workers.

      Good call. Also apple isn't the only major tech company to use foxxconn. But to me any bad press to apple is a win because I think their marketing is brutal and intrusive. The idea that they advertise as if they are some revolutionary, genius nice-guy of a company kills my soul a little.

    Foxxconn could buy million dollars houses for all their employees, pay them $1000 per hr, and provide free blow jobs to help start your shift, and the phone will never be ETHICAL.
    Foxconn employees have damn site better conditions than the poor people on the Congo mining all of the minerals required to make the parts in these factories. It needs to start at the source and work its way up.
    Then people would need to stop bitching that this device they so desire costs in excess of $1500.
    So iPhone or whatever damn mobile phone you have, you, I contribute to this problem.
    I didn’t loose any sleep about it last night and I bet you didn’t either. We suck.

    The most worrying thing about this is Apple enforcing their will in a public domain. Kick them out of the store? Sure. Forcing people out of public areas..... not really on.

      But are you going to do anything about it?
      probably not.

      If this happened in Australia i would get some of my tradie mates down to back me up - a punch on with the security guards would be some good sport. Seriously, 'Security Guards' employeed by Apple, which are allowed to push public people off public land, while the cops do nothing?

      WTF AMERICA????

      p.s., you let this happen

        Thats right. 2000 people will converge on a public place ( in front of Apple Store not inside) they would eventually start assaulting staff, breakdown the store and run away with apple products that are on the store and you suggest apple keep watching without self defense? I am sure that's what you would be doing if it were ur own business

    The New York Time article and subsequent CBS piece where cheap sensationalistic fluff aimed at the less educated.

    I suggest a follow-up article by the Times looking into conditions at non-Apple factories in China comparing work hours, salary against national average, age of employees, and the names US companies using this labour.

    Anyone with a high school level understanding of macro economics understands that Apple cannot single-handedly change the socioeconomic conditions of the Chinese labour force. Nor is it their responsibility. You cannot simply double salaries at one particular factory. Additionally, salaries are relative and can’t be compared to any Western nation without taking into account the local cost of living, housing, etc.

    There is little doubt that Chinese workers are subjected to longer working hours and lower salaries than in the west, and conditions can always be improved. It should be noted though that these workers come from all over China for what are regarded as high salaries. Potential employees line up every morning outside Foxconn with the hope of landing employment. This is not slave labour.

    Interviewing one or two ex Foxconn employees about the long hours and tough management culture is ridiculous. You could find the same complaints from ex-employees about most companies including the New York Times. Long hours, tough boss, stress; who hasn’t experienced that at some point in their working lives. Life can to tough for the less educated in society regardless of their country of origin.

    Those that have taken up this cause and are protesting Apple’s “tolerance” of it’s supplier’s treatment of its Asian employees are incredibly naïve. Most will have little information on the actual working conditions at Foxconn, the salaries paid relative to the national average, or Apple’s policy on supplier responsibility. Apple hold it’s suppliers to some of the highest employee working standards in the world.

    One wonders whether the protests directed at Apple over workers rights are truly altruistic or driven by competitor influence? These ‘cause of the month’ groups such as Change.org, PETA, Occupy Wall Street, etc., are notorious for protesting injustice regardless of the facts. Apple is an easy target as they have chosen to publish the results of there supplier audits. Before we crucify Apple lets just shift our gaze to other US companies using Asian labour and compare working conditions. Let’s see their audit reports...what’s that? no report?! Wonder why that would be?

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now