Sunday, November 10, 2013

Apple CEO Tim Cook supports rights for U.S. workers, but what about workers in it's supply chain?

Early last week Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Corporation wrote that workplace equality is “good for business,” in a show of his and the company’s support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) - a landmark civil rights legislation that would make it illegal to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees (LGBT) in the workplace - which was approved last Thursday in a landmark decision by the Senate (1,2). Apple’s own corporate policy prohibits discriminatory hiring practices against its LGBT effectively giving them more protection than they currently receive under Federal law (4).

Cook wrote Tuesday in an op-ed in the Washington Post,

            “At Apple, we try to make sure people understand that they don't have to check their identity at the door. We're committed to creating a safe and welcoming workplace for all employees, regardless of their race, gender, nationality or sexual orientation…

            Those who have suffered discrimination have paid the greatest price for this lack of legal protection. But ultimately we all pay a price. If our coworkers cannot be themselves in the workplace, they certainly cannot be their best selves. When that happens, we undermine people's potential and deny ourselves and our society the full benefits of those individuals' talents.

            So long as the law remains silent on the workplace rights of gay and lesbian Americans, we as a nation are effectively consenting to discrimination against them. Congress should seize the opportunity to strike a blow against such intolerance by approving the Employment Nondiscrimination Act” (3,4,5).

President Obama also wrote in support of the bill, pointing out the importance of equality and non-discrimination in the workplace and emphasizing the fact that the majority of Fortune 500 companies and small businesses already have nondiscrimination policies that protect LGBT employees saying,

            “These companies know that it's both the right thing to do and makes good economic sense. They want to attract and retain the best workers, and discrimination makes it harder to do that. …

            If we want to create more jobs and economic growth and keep our country competitive in the global economy, we need everyone working hard, contributing   their ideas, and putting their abilities to use doing what they do best. We need to harness the creativity and talents of every American" (6).

Though getting through Senate was a major success, ENDA still faces considerable opposition as by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and the Republican-controlled House (3).

The passing of ENDA would be a great and long sought after win for all those who support equality in the workforce and it our personal opinion that it is great that Apple supports this legislation. But dear reader, it’s hard for us to ignore the fact that Apple remains an integral part of a network of overseas companies (e.g, Foxconn and others ) that highly exploit workers whose socioeconomic status renders them vulnerable. Exploiting this vulnerability of its overseas workforce is a major contributing factor to the success and profitability of Apple corporation. If equality for all is truly what Apple is interested in, it should include ensuring that less privileged workers in the Apple supply chain are provided with a living wage and decent working conditions. What will stockholders think of this idea?