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Apple Under Fire for Poisoning iPhone Makers

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And here we thought Foxconn was the source of all the problems.

As Apple (AAPL) is taking the lion's share of the heat from Microsoft (MSFT), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Motorola (MMI), Amazon (AMZN), and other companies by getting labeled the chief client for Foxconn, the company finds itself at the mercy of yet another controversy brewing within another Chinese factory -- Wintek.

Two workers are claiming that they were poisoned while assembling touchscreens for the iPhone. In an open letter, Guo Rui-qiang and Jia Jing-chuan wrote that toxins in a chemical cleaner called N-hexane caused them to suffer severe infection and neurological damage. The men have enlisted the help of SumOfUs -- the group behind the Ethical iPhone Campaign which began a month ago -- to petition Apple and improve the working conditions in the overseas factories.

The letter invoked such strong feelings amongst supporters that SumOfUs now plans to deliver it, along with new petitions, directly to Apple during its annual shareholder meeting today. The group's Executive Director Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman said in a statement, "Apple has a moral obligation to fully compensate workers like Guo Rui-Qiang and Jia Jing-Chuan and to take the hard steps required make sure that tragedies like this never happen again." Adding, "Ethical consumers won't be fooled by whitewashing by organizations like the Fair Labor Association. We insist that Apple grant truly independent NGOs full access to its factories to truly independent NGOs, not groups funded and controlled by the corporations they're supposed to monitor."

Sounds like ABC's (DIS) congenial investigation of Foxconn did nothing to thwart protestors.

Check out Guo Rui-qiang and Jia Jing-chuan's letter in full below:

Dear SumOfUs Members and Friends -

You don’t know us but you have seen our work. Until recently, we worked long hours assembling Apple’s iPhone touch screens in Suzhou, China.

In early 2010, it was independently confirmed that 137 workers, including us, were poisoned by a chemical called n-hexane which was used to clean iPhone screens. N-hexane is known to cause eye, skin and respiratory tract irritation, and leads to persistant nerve damage. Apple admitted to gross labour rights violations more than a year later.

If more people know about what we went through, Apple will feel pressured to change so other workers don’t have to suffer like we did.

Can you share this letter with your friends, and ask them to join you in signing our petition calling for a reform of working conditions at their factories?

We have been pressuring Apple, and its new CEO Tim Cook, for years to compensate those of us who were injured working for them, and demanding reform of working conditions at their Chinese factories so that their workers don’t suffer like we do. Now we need your help as customers or potential customers of Apple.

We need your help to send a message to Apple before their shareholder meeting on Thursday, Feb. 23rd. We want to see a strict corporate social responsibility and reform of the audit system to prevent similar tragedies in the future. He will listen to you as current or potential consumers.

You’ve already signed the petition, and 82,000 others have too — for that, we thank you.We believe it’d be symbolicly powerful if 100,000 people signed the petition before SumOfUs delivers it to Tim Cook on Thursday at their shareholder meeting. We’re really close to that goal, but we need you to share our request with your friends to get over the edge.

Can you share our letter with your friends, and ask them to sign the petition too?

It has been over two years since many of us were hospitalized and treated but our debilitating symptoms continue. Rui-Qiang still can’t find work because he can no longer stand for the long hours most jobs require. Jing-Chuan has to spend nearly $100 a month on health supplements.

But with all of us working together to pressure Apple to change, we can make sure what happened to us doesn’t happen to others too.

- Guo Rui-qiang and Jia Jing-chuan

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