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Apple contractor Wintek sued by 44 employees over alleged poisoning

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Dozens of Wintek workers claim in a new lawsuit that they were poisoned by a chemical called n-hexane while cleaning glass screens of Apple's iPhone in a Chinese factory.

A total 44 workers based in Suzhou, China, plan to sue the Taiwanese manufacturer, according to Stratfor Global Intelligence. The report, relayed by Barron's, states that at least 62 Wintek workers have been hospitalized since August of 2009 after exposure to N-hexane. The chemical reportedly can cause nerve damage and paralysis.

The workers claim that the factory manager in China forced the workers to use n-hexane instead of alcohol because the chemical dries faster and leaves fewer streaks on glass. That factory manager has since been fired.

The report noted that "lawsuits of any kind are uncommon in China." Typically, disputes are settled "quietly behind closed doors."

The issue was the subject of a violent strike at the Wintek plant earlier this year. In a demonstration in January, more than 2,000 workers in Suzhou destroyed their equipment and damaged vehicles at the plant in response to a number of deaths allegedly from overexposure to toxic chemicals. Protesters blocked off a road and threw rocks at police.

Days later, the strike was settled, and production of products from the plant went unaffected. Wintek offered bonuses to its employees, which was reportedly enough to get them back to work.

Like almost every electronics company, Apple works with overseas partners to create and assemble its devices. Last year, an audit of factories Apple contracts with in China showed that more than half were not paying valid overtime rates for those that qualified. In addition, 23 of the 83 surveyed factories weren't even paying their workers China's minimum wage.

Wintek, in particular, came under fire in 2009, as workers at the company took their case directly to Apple over what they saw as illegal and abusive working conditions. Members of the National Federation of Independent Trade Unions in Taiwan protested in front of Apple's Taipei offices last May, hoping the Mac maker would influence Wintek.

In March, it was alleged that a shortage of touchscreen panels for Apple's iPad led the Cupertino, Calif., company to contract with Wintek for new iPad screens. Since its launch on April 3, the iPad has been a popular item and has been consistently sold out in many of the company's retail stores.

One recent report claimed that Wintek will handle 40 percent of the touch panels in Apple's next-generation iPhone. The device is expected to be announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference, scheduled to begin June 7 at San Francisco's Moscone West.
post #2 of 28
Adobe must have some operatives in China...
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post #3 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElmCityWeb View Post

Adobe must have some operatives in China...

I concur.
post #4 of 28
Dozens of Wintek workers claim in a new lawsuit that they were poised by a chemical called n-hexane while cleaning glass screens of Apple's iPhone in a Chinese factory.

I suppose the chemical was taking their picture and it made them look like they were poisoned. Or the spellcheck wasn't working.
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post #5 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sequitur View Post

Dozens of Wintek workers claim in a new lawsuit that they were poised by a chemical called n-hexane while cleaning glass screens of Apple's iPhone in a Chinese factory.

I suppose the chemical was taking their picture and it made them look like they were poisoned. Or the spellcheck wasn't working.

post #6 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


The workers claim that the factory manager in China forced the workers to use n-hexane instead of alcohol because the chemical dries faster and leaves fewer streaks on glass.


Apple needs to start manufacturing in the United States. Now.
post #7 of 28
Are we talking the glass and digitizer? Ie they're cleaning the front and back of the glass, then putting the digitizer on?
post #8 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevie View Post

Apple needs to start manufacturing in the United States. Now.

Will eat away margins or raise prices, but on the whole I think I agree.

So here is a thought: If this was happening in Russia - the workers would drink half of the alcohol they were given for glass cleaning. I don't know if that is the case in china, but that could be the reason why they got switched to another chemical? Maybe someone drank that as well.

Either way apple needs to make sure this type of stuff is not happening anymore. If you are already saving on wages, you shouldn't compromise worker safety.
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post #9 of 28
The MSDS form for n-hexane does not list any neurological effects from exposure in lab animals, but there are plenty of other bad effects (liver damage, cancer, lung damage, skin irritation, bad for fishes, etc).

If workers drinking the stuff is an issue, use isopropanol, its much cheaper than n-hexane, has a limited level of toxicity, is better blocked by simple latex gloves, and is more oleophobic than ethanol, making it a lovely compromise... not that it's without health effects (the main reason people like to use ethanol -- not too toxic... aka, you can drink it and just be hungover, IPA will make you go blind and destroy your liver, if you survive)
post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by iCarbon View Post

The MSDS form for n-hexane does not list any neurological effects from exposure in lab animals, but there are plenty of other bad effects (liver damage, cancer, lung damage, skin irritation, bad for fishes, etc).

If workers drinking the stuff is an issue, use isopropanol, its much cheaper than n-hexane, has a limited level of toxicity, is better blocked by simple latex gloves, and is more oleophobic than ethanol, making it a lovely compromise... not that it's without health effects (the main reason people like to use ethanol -- not too toxic... aka, you can drink it and just be hungover, IPA will make you go blind and destroy your liver, if you survive)

http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/healthguide...cognition.html

Quote:
Long-term exposure to n-hexane may cause disturbances in sensation, muscle weakness, and distal symmetric pain in the legs. Clinical changes include muscle atrophy, decreased muscle strength, footdrop, numbness, prickling, and a tingling sensation in the arms and legs. Neurological investigations reveal decreased motor nerve conduction, neurogenic damage and swelling of peripheral nerves with thinning of the myelin sheath. These symptoms may get worse for 2 to 3 months after cessation of exposure. Changes in vision may also be a symptom of chronic exposure to n-hexane
post #11 of 28
Hey Steve, the REAL Erin Brockovich called, she wants to borrow your jet!



All seriousness, "there bad effects (liver damage, cancer, lung damage, skin irritation, bad for fishes, etc).", yikes! How long does the residue last. I mean, we're touching that glass and as our mothers keep telling us, "You don't know where that finger's been!"

"Will eat away margins or raise prices, but on the whole I think I agree. Either way apple needs to make sure this type of stuff is not happening anymore. If you are already saving on wages, you shouldn't compromise worker safety."

Apple needs to build a plant is southern Arizona, near the border. If it is plate glass washers Apple needs, and it's work Americans won't do, that's where Apple can produce it home grown so to speak with the aid of all those illegal er excuse me undocumented workers!

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post #12 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevie View Post

Apple needs to start manufacturing in the United States. Now.

Or at least countries that have better legal systems and worker/environmental protections.
post #13 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevie View Post

Apple needs to start manufacturing in the United States. Now.

Apple makes hi value added products with good profits margins. It has enough cash to set-up automated plants in the US to minimize the impact of labor costs here. It is immoral that Apple has chosen instead to us foreign slave labor, paid in slave wages and working in slave labor conditions.

Many countries that manufacture hi value goods choose to do a lot of the manufacturing at home and still do well. Scandinavia and Germany (2nd largest exporter in the world) are examples. It takes investment in skills and automation.

I can see where California may not be the best place for manufacturing, but other states like Texas, have no state income taxes, low labor costs, low land costs, low utility costs, etc.
post #14 of 28
What's wrong with a little poisoning? Nerve damage and paralysis? Walk it off, chump. My grandpa used to have Agent Orange for breakfast as a soldier.
post #15 of 28
... and it's even in the veggie burgers of you lefty commie pinkos!
post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevie View Post

Apple needs to start manufacturing in the United States. Now.

then we can pay $1599 for a WiFi 16GB iPad and a very reasonable price of $4999 for a 17" MBP.
post #17 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Postulant View Post

What's wrong with a little poisoning? Nerve damage and paralysis? Walk it off, chump. My grandpa used to have Agent Orange for breakfast as a soldier.

grandpa huh? are you 4 years old?
post #18 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by s4mb4 View Post

then we can pay $1599 for a WiFi 16GB iPad and a very reasonable price of $4999 for a 17" MBP.

That is why I am getting mine before the current lot of dingbats we have in Washington decide we are not paying them enough for all their gracious spending, that we are not appreciative of but should be thankful for, and therefore the dingbats add a 20% VAT tax to all products in the E-US of A!

Probably not alone in that thinking... mad dash to buy cheaper MBP, iPad and iPhone... Apple should have a banner year - Captialism's last gasp...

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post #19 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by s4mb4 View Post

grandpa huh? are you 4 years old?

Hey wise guy, Agent Orange was used in Vietnam nearly fifty years ago. So it's entirely possible that the guy is a young adult who's grandpa was there.
post #20 of 28
Apple Insider is breaking a long tradition of American journalism by reporting on labor issues and anything that might upset China.

It's disgusting how these companies treat their slave labor.

The difference between US policy towards Cuba, Venezuela, China, Vietnam is that Cuba and Venezuela refuses to allow US companies to exploit their people.

Thanks AI for even reporting this.
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post #21 of 28
Relax people. In 20 years, China will be the new global economic leader in personal spending. The US will be relegated to being the new cheap manufacturing destination for all the electronic products. We will get our fair shot at being the toxic waste dump for the world. My tarot cards have given me this glimpse of the future.
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post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElmCityWeb View Post

Adobe must have some operatives in China...

lol, that's so funny, but to honour those afflicted let just say that this is very sad news indeed, nerve damage by a chemical is one of the most horrific fates, I wish the employees courage.

They should have taken greater care with the workers, wintek that is, not apple per se.

Industrial progress can't and won't stop, but all those new chemicals going into production, should be tested extensively wrt to how they might affect human health. It's high time for this, it's an imperative. (which of course won't take place...)

Quote:
Originally Posted by 8CoreWhore View Post

Apple Insider is breaking a long tradition of American journalism by reporting on labor issues and anything that might upset China.

It's disgusting how these companies treat their slave labor.

The difference between US policy towards Cuba, Venezuela, China, Vietnam is that Cuba and Venezuela refuses to allow US companies to exploit their people.

Thanks AI for even reporting this.

Post of the day, very gutsy, thanks for posting this.
post #23 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by 8CoreWhore View Post

Apple Insider is breaking a long tradition of American journalism by reporting on labor issues and anything that might upset China.

It's disgusting how these companies treat their slave labor.

The difference between US policy towards Cuba, Venezuela, China, Vietnam is that Cuba and Venezuela refuses to allow US companies to exploit their people.

Thanks AI for even reporting this.

Reporting the truth is an admirable policy but the other subjects addressed are a little complicated and cannot be summarized in a few sensationalist remarks. Political comments are usually more appropriate for the AppleOutsider forum.

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post #24 of 28
Well, AppleInsider has finally convinced me that Apple is an evil corporation that should not be allowed to exist any longer. AppleInsider has been trying for years to expose the depravity and evilness of Apple and they finally succeeded with me. This was the last straw. I am turning in my fanboy membership card, selling my Apple gear, and going with companies that truly care for their customers, namely Dell and Microsoft. I can't believe it's taken this long for me to have an epiphany, to finally realize I am destroying Chinese peasants by buying Apple products.

Goodbye cruel Apple. Thank you, AppleInsider, for opening my eyes. I am linking this article to everyone I know. I will now create a YouTube video of me smashing my iPad with a baseball bat in protest. Oh wait, I think someone already did that didn't they? Maybe I'll run over my iMac with a riding lawnmower instead.That'll show 'em I'm serious about this.
post #25 of 28
The great thing about Apple being the new Nike is that Americans don't really care what happens to overseas workers as long as they get their sneakers.
post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post

That is why I am getting mine before the current lot of dingbats we have in Washington decide we are not paying them enough for all their gracious spending, that we are not appreciative of but should be thankful for, and therefore the dingbats add a 20% VAT tax to all products in the E-US of A!

Probably not alone in that thinking... mad dash to buy cheaper MBP, iPad and iPhone... Apple should have a banner year - Captialism's last gasp...

VAT is NEVER, NEVER happening in the U.S. and even if it did, it's years and years away. We can't even agree on simplifying the current tax system - several administrations of both parties have tried and failed. It doesn't matter if you're left wing or right wing, it's simply not happening. Even if the Government agreed to completely eliminate federal income taxes, it's not happening. There is a psychology to taxes and even though workers might have anywhere from 18 to 35% of their pay deducted for federal withholding, even if that were eliminated, they would not accept paying an extra 22% (or whatever the number might be) on just about every item they consume.

The right wing would see this as a massive increase in taxes, even if the federal income tax were eliminated. It would probably hurt the economy as people would reduce consumption faced by what would be perceived as massive price increases (although it would probably help the environment). The left would be opposed because consumption taxes hurt the poor more than the rich, since they spend a larger percentage of their income on basic needs: shelter, food, clothes, medical care. The right would be opposed because VAT would presumably be higher than current long-term capital gains taxes, so the rich would have to pay more taxes.

VAT is sort of accepted in Europe because of the socialist societies there (and I'm not using socialism in a negative context.) But VAT here would simply replace federal income taxes and the average person would probably not have a better life because of it.

So IMO, never gonna' happen and there's no need to be paranoid about it.
post #27 of 28
Taiwanese companies.
post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by min_t View Post

Relax people. In 20 years, China will be the new global economic leader in personal spending. The US will be relegated to being the new cheap manufacturing destination for all the electronic products. We will get our fair shot at being the toxic waste dump for the world. My tarot cards have given me this glimpse of the future.

Well, California is already a 3rd world nation, of sorts.


All this talk of slave labor. I seem to have missed the link showing how much these workers make, compared to the average Chinese worker. They may be well paid compared to the average Chinese worker.
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