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Last month saw several big stories on poor working conditions at the factories in China where makes Apple products. Chief executive Tim Cook initially responded by saying that Apple had nothing to apologize for. Now Apple has announced a series of special “voluntary audits” at Foxconn factories in Shenzen and Chengdu, China by the Fair Labor Association.

It’s the first big step by Apple to be proactive about the horrendous working conditions at its suppliers.

“We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers,” Cook said in a statement today. “The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports.”

Cook previously responded directly to a damning story in the New York Times in a letter to Apple employees, saying that, “Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It’s not who we are.”

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But momentum continued to build for Apple to take action. Last week activists delivered a petition with 250,000 signatures to the Apple store in Grand Central.

A former Apple executive quoted in the New York Times story said that, “Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice.”

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