Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), the world's most valuable technology company, continues to abuse workers in China who assemble its iPhone 5 and other products, liberal watchdog group SumOfUs.org charged on Wednesday.
"To meet today's launch deadline, Apple's supplier pulled Chinese college students out of school and put them to work in the biggest 'internship' scam in the world," said Executive Director Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman. "The students were paid less than minimum wage and without the labor protections afforded to regular workers."
Apple's principal contractor is Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industries (Taipei: 2317), which operates under the Foxconn brand name. SumOfUs, of New York, and other labor groups raised questions about Hon Hai earlier this year, prompting Apple CEO Tim Cook to ask the Fair Labor Association to inspect factories, where many abuses were found.
Cook visited two Foxconn factories during his March visit to China and pledged to ameliorate working conditions. The contractor as well promised to raise wages and ensure overtime laws were strictly enforced.
Shares of Hon Hai have risen more than 12 percent this year, compared with Apple's 64 percent gain.
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Stinebrenner-Kauffman asserted the college students roped into meet the deadline for Apple, of Cupertino, Calif., to announce iPhone 5 products will be shipped starting next week. The students "don't want to jeopardize their diplomas so they're enduring 12-hour days on the factory floor."
Apple had no immediate comment.
SumOfUs claims to have as many as 200,000 online members, who've previously mounted protests against Apple, advertisers on Rush Limbaugh's radio program and the American Legislative Exchange Council after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, 17, in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, by a defendant who claimed he'd acted under Florida's "stand your ground" law.
Apple's not the only electronics maker under attack. Last week, China Labor Watch charged Apple's principal smartphone rival Samsung Electronics (Seoul: 005930) had abused workers in China factories it owns or operates through intermediaries.
Shares of Apple closed at $669.72, up $9.13.