Protesters at iPad launch want Apple to ‘think different’ on worker treatment

In the crowds at major Apple stores across the U.S. for the new iPad were a few people who were decidedly out-of-place: protestors who wanted to remind the shoppers about “unethical” working conditions of the Chinese laborers who make Apple’s products.

Apple has attracted criticism for treatment of workers at the Foxconn plants that manufacture iPads, iPhones, and other popular items. Factory workers receive little pay and work very long hours to make these products. Foxconn and Apple opened their factory doors to ABC News, but the report felt lightweight in its treatment. Foxconn factories also produce products for other big electronics companies such as Nokia, Microsoft, Sony, and Motorola.

At the Fifth Avenue Apple Store in New York, first time launch protestor Charlene Carruthers from Change.org told VentureBeat that Apple CEO Tim Cook has not done enough to address the alleged hardships of Chinese laborers.

“We want Apple to release a clear strategy on how they plan to treat workers,” Carruthers said. “Apple is based around innovation, so in this case we want them to ‘think differently’ about how they treat workers.”

Carruthers and a few others held up a large sign (see above) and attracted interviews from several media outlets. The online petition she was there to support now has more than 250,000 signatures.

At the Market Street San Francisco Apple store, a dozen people from Change.org stood in front of the iPad line handing out fliers and holding a large banner covered in comments taken from the online petition. Volunteer William Winters said what the protesters want is “an iPhone or iPad that doesn’t have blood in it.”

While the protesting could be viewed as commendable, the throngs of Apple fans clamoring for a new iPad didn’t seem phased as they shuffled by toward the front door of the Apple store.

You can see more photos of today’s iPad launch in the gallery below:

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Protestors photo: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

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