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SumOfUs criticizes FLA head, plans new petition deliveries

updated 04:50 pm EST, Thu February 16, 2012

Accuses FLA of incentives to approve Foxconn

Activist group SumOfUs has issued a statement criticizing the president of the Fair Labor Association, Auret van Heerden, for initially approving of Foxconn factory conditions. Even though the FLA is just beginning its study, based on early tours, van Heerden has already claimed that Foxconn plants are "first-class" with conditions "way, way above average of the norm." A finished FLA report is only due in early March.

"It is inappropriate in the extreme for the FLA to be making any statements whatsoever this early in an allegedly independent investigation," reads a prepared quote by Taren Stinkebrickner-Kauffman, SumOfUs' executive director. "So far all they've done is have a guided tour of the premises by Foxconn executives -- what exactly were they expecting, that the company would voluntarily show them the dark underbelly of the factory life on the first day?"

"The FLA is funded and controlled by the same companies it is supposed to be monitoring," Stinebrickner-Kauffman alleges. "Moreover, most of the so-called 'monitoring' conducted by the FLA is actually outsourced to for-profit firms -- and all of their incentives line up to provide a clean bill of health to factories."

SumOfUs is perhaps best known for participating in a petition that was delivered to Apple Stores around the world, asking for Apple to help improve labor conditions at its suppliers. The group says it is now up to over 78,000 signatures, with the goal of making the next-generation iPhone "the first 'ethical iPhone'." A so-called "distributed" petition delivery campaign is scheduled for next week, in which SumOfUs members will carry petitions to managers at local iPhone vendors.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Geoduck

    Joined: Dec 1969


    When you don't

    like the message attack the messenger.

    SumOfUs does not include me.

  1. Athens

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Makes you wonder of these people have ever gone over there and seen things for themselves? A friend who moved here from China worked at Foxconn. He said compared to our standards its very poor at Foxconn. But in China Foxconn is a very good place to work for when compared to other choices. It all comes down to perspective. Our perspective is not the same as those in China. For them its a good place to work. For us its not.

  1. Bobfozz

    Joined: Dec 1969


    SumofUs got caught...

    looking stupid! They turned in all these petitions and got hammered by a competing organization. Makes them look like idiots.... which, they are.
    This guy was following a script for how to get attention and it backfired. He will now possibly be hired by people stupider than he is.

  1. facebook_Alexander

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Feb 2012


    comment title

    can't wait for this group to do the same to Microsoft, Amazon, Dell, HP, ... Again, I wonder if they ever been over to the factories.

  1. chas_m



    Not without merit

    The SumOfUs comment was not completely without merit, but it's pretty obvious that they are just trying to save face here. Call us back when you (meaning SumOfUs) have taken a look at the other technology manufacturing facilities in China, or have petitioned MS, Sharp, Google, HP, et al.

    Till then, I would say you're grandstanding.

  1. sibeale1

    Joined: Dec 1969


    What else is new?

    The trick to get maximum attention is to attack the largest target, whether or not they're the biggest offender of whatever the cause is. So it makes sense they'd attack Apple. Was a time when people would go along with this approach and the attack would have the intended effect, but people have become hip to these tactics, and the companies themselves have been proactive. So, to say the least, this approach is obsolete and ineffective. If they really wanted things to change for the better in China, they would have worked WITH the companies.

  1. ElectroTech

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Where were their clothes made?

    All you have to do to see how well SomeOfUs walk the talk, just look in their closets and see how many of their clothes are bought from sweatshops in China. They should start here in North America and look at the conditions that the food they eat is harvested and how it is planted etc.

  1. Makosuke

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I'm with chas_m--some of what the quotes above are saying actually makes sense (heck, maybe Apple's auditor really is sketchy), but it still comes across looking an awful lot like a desperate grab for relevance.

    That's the one thing with really activist organizations in general--they can do a lot of good, but they are fueled almost entirely by outrage. If a source of outrage goes away (say, the politician you hate resigns, or the company you've been attacking changes its policy in response), you've got two choices: Go home, or come up with a new source of outrage.

    People who have just managed to make a small dent in national awareness don't usually like going home, hence, find more outrage. Which in this case is most easily done by writing off the conclusion. I honestly do wonder if the SumOfUs crew has ever toured some factories in China. Who knows, maybe they have, but I have my doubts that they'd be organizing a petition drive rather than doing an expose documentary with secret documents or spy footage.

  1. facebook_David

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Feb 2012



    ......represent very FewOfUs! They are grandstanding. Perhaps someday they will find a worthy cause for their petitions and concerns. But this is NOT one of them. I hope they realize how much credibility they lose when their cause is empty. There are so many other issues that need real attention - perhaps they should do a little more homework before coming to school.

  1. niji

    Joined: Dec 1969


    FLA Head totally messed up

    FLA Head, going into Foxconn, and getting the guided tour, seeing the swimming pool, seeing the on-site grocery store, etc, and then coming out with the comment he made: (parphrased) "wow, this is really comparatively better than anything we see in the garment industry"
    What more rediculous, compromising, embarassing to both apple and himeself, statements could he have possibly made??
    Everybody should check again in March, when they reveal the results.
    Problem is: FLA is anything but reputable. It is being sued by China Labour Watch for revealing an informant's name. Its auditors are paid by other companies which have taken bribes from the factories they are auditing.
    Then this totally bizare claim made by him the first day he flew in from the USA.
    You really need to wonder about the entire arrangement.
    If I were Tim Cook, I would know that we had messed up and get a different group in.
    Further, so many of the traditional CSR auditing companies, as revealed in the Nobel Prize Winning Level piece by the NYT, have been outted by this that a book is there is to written.
    As an audting organization, FLA is already comprised.
    Its a disgrace and waste.
    Field results, the raw interviews, the record checking etc, must all be now carefully word checked for nuance.
    A lowly Chinese or Western field auditor with data showing wide spread negligence certainly wouldnt want to embarrass the Head of FLA, now, right?
    This circus just keeps on giving.

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