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Critic: With iPhone 5 Launch, Tim Cook Blows Major PR Opportunity

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The head of a corporate watchdog accountability group says Apple has missed the moment to make its products more attractive to American buyers.

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There's a couple of reasons why there are routine violations of these labor laws. One of the bigs ones is that workers can't make a living wage without working overtime. That's why wages have to come up. If workers are working 40 hours per week plus 25 hours of overtime, which is the legal overtime limit, they're still not making enough to support themselves.

Our problem with excessive overtime is not just about, "Well, it's nice for people to have leisure time." When you work a 12-hour shift in a factory, the physical harm it does to your body -- when you're doing these repetitive motions and potentially breathing in toxic fumes -- is enormous. There's an impact on the body.

The other reason there's so much overtime, especially in the lead up to a product launch like iPhone 5, is that Apple demands massive flexibility and massive productivity during those time periods. There's a famous story that led off the New York Times investigative report on this: Steve Jobs decided [six] weeks before the first iPhone was being launched that he wanted a glass screen instead of a plastic screen. They had to retool the entire assembly line to change all the phones for that launch.

Apple either needs to be willing to pay to have factories with extra capacity or they're just going to have to wait 10 weeks instead of five weeks for those kinds of things. The cost of doing that -- to forcing that kind of massive capacity surge -- is an enormous human cost.

Has that been true for the iPhone 5 launch?
We don't have direct evidence of it for the iPhone 5. It's very hard to get interviews with these workers. They live in the company dormitories. But it would be very surprising if there were not massive amounts of overtime work right now.

Speaking of employee interviews, has the Mike Daisey debacle made it difficult for you to get your message out?
I think everyone agrees that he shouldn't have presented his work as living up to journalistic standards. I do think it has muddied the waters in really unfortunate ways because the truth is that most of the allegations he was presenting about the working conditions are true. But it's made it confusing for the average consumer who heard the topline of "Mike Daisey was making this stuff up," and then dismisses all of the facts. The facts have been repeatedly proven time and time again over the last decade by independent researchers.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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