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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 (NASDAQ:AAPL) has missed the moment to make its products more attractive to American buyers.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL With the launch of iPhone 5, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook is missing an opportunity to make an important statement, says Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director of corporate accountability watchdog group Sum of Us.

"Apple is hoping the buzz around the iPhone 5's release will drown out criticism, but as demand for iPhones has increased, so has the demand for faster and cheaper production, and factories churning out phones are also churning out forced unpaid overtime, wage cuts, and hazardous working environments," she said in a statement.

Criticism has not been completely muted, of course. Most notably, a Shanghai newspaper just published its own sort of tribute to the iPhone 5 by sending a veteran journalist undercover inside a factory run by Apple supplier Foxconn. See a translation of the story -- with fresh images from within the factories and dormitories -- at M.I.C. Gadget.

On the heels of China's latest suicide report this June, the public in China and the US was alerted to allegations -- denied by Foxconn -- that the company was using an "internship" program to secure unpaid work from Chinese students specifically hired to produce new USB cables for the iPhone 5. Students who quit would lose school credit, according to several sources. Here's China Daily:

"The university told us it's a good way to experience corporate culture," the 19-year-old said. "Even though many of my classmates are reluctant to go to Foxconn, our teachers still asked us to work there starting in August." She added that almost all the vocational schools in the city, including some related to food science and finance, have sent students to Foxconn, Apple's largest supplier. Her university provided more than 3,000 students.

This year in Brazil, unionized workers at new Foxconn factories began earning more than twice the average salary of their Chinese counterparts, meaning they might actually be able to afford the products they assemble. (Labor activists point to Brazil's model as proof that Apple can do better by its international supply chain employees, though even in Brazil, workers have voiced complaints about overcrowding, poor food, and a lack of drinking water.) Why isn't the same pay, at least, possible in China? According to Stinebrickner-Kauffman and other activists, it is.

Minyanville spoke to Stinebrickner-Kaufmann about her grassroots campaign.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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