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Former factory workers add pleas to sign Apple labor petition

Two former factory workers in China who suffered health problems as part of a 2009 incident are urging the public to sign an Internet petition being delivered to Apple tomorrow.

Apple supply workers assembling MacBook Pro displays in Shanghai (not the ones urging people to sign the petition).
Apple supply workers assembling MacBook Pro displays in Shanghai (not the ones urging people to sign the petition). Apple

Two former Wintek employees who say they suffered permanent health problems while assembling iPhones in 2009 have come out in support of a petition asking Apple to demand better working conditions at overseas factories.

In a statement today, Guo Rui-Qiang and Jia Jing-Chuan, who were among those who suffered health problems as a result of exposure to n-hexane, a toxic chemical that was being used in a China factory as a cleaning agent, are asking more people to sign the petition ahead of Apple's annual shareholders meeting tomorrow.

"We have been pressuring Apple, and its new CEO Tim Cook, for years to compensate those of us who were injured working for them, and demanding reform of working conditions at their Chinese factories so that their workers don't suffer like we do," the two wrote in a translated statement. "Now we need your help as customers or potential customers of Apple."

The pair says it wants the petition to reach 100,000 signatures by tomorrow morning, some 15,000 more than the survey's current tally at the time of publication.

"We believe it'd be symbolicly (sic) powerful if 100,000 people signed the petition before SumOfUs delivers it to Tim Cook on Thursday at their shareholder meeting," they added.

An Apple spokeswoman declined comment, and referred back to the company's supplier responsibility report.

Last week SumOfUs, a watchdog activist group, announced plans to once again deliver petitions to Apple stores as part of a "distributed" effort that involves "hundreds of its members" bringing printed copies of the petitions to their local Apple stores, not just a hand-picked few. This is a follow-up to the group's delivery of printed petitions that included the signatures of another labor-related petition from to select Apple retail stores on February 9.

Today's letter comes on the heels of an investigative report on Foxconn (another Apple supply partner) from ABC's Nightline that aired last night, as well as new claims that the manufacturer actively moved younger workers, and changed their work scheduling ahead of known audits from the Fair Labor Association. That's the group that's currently examining Foxconn's factories, and soon other manufacturing partners in Apple's supply chain as part of a special audit requested by Apple last week.

Apple, for its part, has since pledged to issue monthly reports on its suppliers through its supplier responsibility Web site, which was updated last month with specifics from the 2011 calendar year. The company has issued a version of that report every year since 2006, with this year's version adding a full copy of the company's code of conduct, as well as a list of companies it uses to supply and produce its products.