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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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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.

Do you speak directly to Apple's shareholders? What are the responses?
We work a little bit with shareholders. We held a rally under the annual stock meeting in February in Cupertino. It's a ways away from the Bay, and it's not a large town, but we still had about 35 people show up for a couple of hours. We haven't proposed a resolution around this, but it's certainly something we would consider for next year, especially if Apple continues to refuse to address this situation.

What do you hear from American consumers on this topic?
I think that what most consumers really understand is that there is just no reason that Apple can't continue to make the products they make and treat their workers well. People want to feel good about buying Apple products. That's the brand Apple has built.

So what's the disconnect? Why haven't we seen a major consumer backlash?
I think there is mounting consumer awareness, but you have to remember that these technologies lock you in. It's not an easy switch. You've bought your iBook or your iPhone and you've invested in their products. I'm not going to say it's as hard as switching banks, but everybody knows that banks do horrible things but most people don't take their money out of banks, right?
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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