Apple CEO Tim Cook Dismisses Charges It Ignored Worker Abuse In China as 'Patently False'

Apple iPhone 4S Tim Cook

In a company-wide email, Cook calls The New York Times report that Apple turned a "blind eye" to abuse at Chinese factories "offensive."

Apple CEO Tim Cook dismissed media reports as "patently false" that the company turned "a blind eye" to worker mistreatment at factories run by its subcontractors in Asia an email sent to all employees.

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Cook wrote, "We are defined by our values. Unfortunately some people are questioning Apple’s values today. … We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. … Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us."

The Apple chief was responding to reports in The New York Times and on NPR's This American Life about unsafe conditions at factories owned by the Taiwanese company Foxconn that manufactured products for Apple. The New York Times detailed deadly explosions, excessive hours, and harsh conditions in Foxconn's plants. The article's blunt headline "Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad" struck at the heart of a company that has carefully cultivated a progressive and cool image

On This American Life, correspondent Mike Daisey reviewing similar evidence asked, “In a company obsessed with the details, with the aluminum being milled just so, with the glass being fitted perfectly into the case, do you really think it's credible that they don't know?”

The New York Times story highlighted what some former Apple executives called the "unresolved tension" between a desire to improve factory conditions and the pursuit of cheaper products delivered faster. As one unnamed former executive said, "We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on. Why? Because the system works for us."

The story went viral, getting wide pick up on both computer-oriented and political blogs and mainstream news outlets, forcing Apple to respond to the allegations.

Cook did not directly acknowledge the claims about worker abuse but tried to counter the negative publicity by looking forward, touting Apple's recent decision to allow independent evaluations of factories in their supply chain by the Fair Labor Association. "We are focused on educating workers about their rights, so they are empowered to speak up when they see unsafe conditions or unfair treatment," he added in his email.

Cook ended his note by pledging, "What we will not do — and never have done — is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain.”