Rotten Apple: Slave-labor Workers Overseen by Company Director Al Gore

  @DavidZie on February 11 2012 10:04 PM

Happy Apple shareholders by now have received their annual reports and proxies for the Feb. 23 annual meeting to be held at headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

Three important items are missing: No shareholder has proposed a resolution to bring back at least some of the world's most valuable company's jobs back to the U.S. from Asia and Ireland.

Nor has a major investor such as Fidelity, with 5.5 percent of the shares, nor Vanguard, with 4 percent, moved to improve working conditions at Apple's contract manufacturers in Asia where substantially all of the company's hardware products are manufactured, Apple's 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission says.

Nor has any shareholder filed to run against Apple directors, including former Vice President Al Gore, who've turned a blind eye to the conditions where Apple products are manufactured.

Is there anyone on the planet who hasn't read of the spate of suicides, worker deaths and accidents at the Chinese plants owned by Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industries, better known as Foxconn?

Anyone under 30 who didn't see Jon Stewart's riff on Apple and Foxconn last month on The Daily Show or catch Mike Daisey's Off-Broadway monologue, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, which opened six weeks before the Apple chairman died? Anyone not heard of conditions resembling slave labor among some of the 700,000 or so people working indirectly for Apple in China?

Since Apple reported the most lucrative quarter in its 36-year history, along with holdings of cash and investments of nearly $98 billion, some have taken notice. A group of idealists called SumOfUs, created an online petition for an ethical iPhone, which had collected 250,000 online signatures by Feb. 9.

On Labor Day 2000, Vice President Gore, the Democratic nominee for President, kicked off his American Workathon in Philadelphia, telling organized labor, We're going to keep going [and] talk to folks who are at work on Labor Day, because he wanted to honor your work.

At the International Press Institute, Gore said Americans have a profound responsibility to open the gates of opportunity for all the world's people so that they can become stakeholders in the kind of society we would like to build at large in the world and at home.

Gore was endorsed by the AFL-CIO and told its convention, With the AFL-CIO by my side...we're going to win the election in the year 2000.

Gore won the election by popular vote, although the controversial Supreme Court ruling in Bush vs. Gore determined that he had lost.

Subsequently, Gore, now 63, won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2007, as well as the Oscar for Best Documentary for his An Inconvenient Truth.

Apple elected Gore a director in March 2003. The job pays him $20,000 annually with various options. Last year's take was $260,729. The former vice president also owns or has options on 100,971 shares valued at Friday's record close at $49.82 million.

So where's voice advocating shop-floor reforms for a company whose commercials have included the images of fellow Nobel laureates Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama? Why was he silent after President Barack Obama, a fellow Nobel laureate, asked Jobs last year about repatriating some Apple manufacturing jobs? Jobs told him they were gone forever.

Why has Gore - who gets a free model of every Chinese-made Apple product as well as discounts on any one he wants to buy - kept his mouth shut?

In Congress, Gore never served on the labor committee when he served either in the House or the Senate.

Gore as an advocate for labor reform in China would be provocative and effective. Chinese customers rioted before Lunar New Year last month because they couldn't get enough iPhone 4s units. So the time is ripe.

Time was one could visit an Apple subcontractor in California, like Solectron, and see the harnesses of new Macs on the line. Those days don't have to be gone forever. In 1989, Chinese students created a Goddess of Liberty in their demonstrations for reform in Beijing. In 2012, couldn't they be holding up pictures of Gore as they text one another on their iPhones?

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