TUAW has gotten word that protestors are planning at assemble at some Apple Stores in Washington, DC’s Georgetown, New York City, and San Francisco this Friday, presumably in anticipation of the new iPad’s release.
These campaigns are being run from Change.org by Mark Shields, who sounds reasonable in this video from CNN. Shields says he’s an Apple fan who wants assurance that Apple isn’t using underpaid and overworked Chinese laborers to make its products. There’s a petition for the movement online, and it’s been signed over 250,000 times so far.
Obviously, that’s a drop in the bucket for Apple’s global audience (and online petitions are worth about as much as the paper they’re not actually printed on), but we’ve seen a growing base of support for this movement, no matter how small it may be.
Apple has already taken steps to ensure that its workers aren’t treated poorly. Shields admitted,via press release, that auditing supplier factories and raising worker pay are good moves. But it’s still unclear exactly what Shields wants. “250,000 consumers have signed their names to the petition asking Apple to release a strategy for protecting their workers during new product launches,” Shields says. “We want them to use their trademark creativity to help make life better for their factory workers.”
So I guess he’s asking for Apple to “protect” workers? It’s unclear from what. I have no doubt that Apple, on a person-to-person level, actually agrees with Shields that Chinese workers (or workers anywhere, for that matter), shouldn’t be taken advantage of. But without a clearly-defined definition of what Apple should do for those workers, it’s hard to see these protests as anything more than noise around the iPad’s already big launch.