Apple unveiled the iPhone 11 with predictable pomp… and broke Chinese labor law to do it

Apple released a number of new products in a highly publicized event yesterday, but the company also quietly admitted to violating a labor law to make many of those products.

September 11, 2019

Yesterday morning, Apple introduced several new iPhones, a new iPad, a new Watch, and several new services.

Earlier this week, Apple also admitted to violating labor laws at its massive iPhone factory in Zhengzhou to produce the shiny new phones for the highly anticipated launch.

Here’s everything you need to know about both sides of the story.

Apple released its gadgets in a predictably flashy event…

And, as usual, it featured plenty of confusing suffixes, grayscale garments, unnecessary slow-motion videos, and long-winded explanations of how new products differ from seemingly identical predecessors. 

The main announcements were:

  • A new iPhone 11 — and also an 11 “Pro” and an 11 “Pro Max”
  • A new Apple Watch Series 5
  • An updated iPad
  • A date — Nov. 1 — for the launch of its streaming service
  • A price — $5/month — for its new Apple Arcade gaming service

The biggest surprise was an iPhone price cut — the iPhone 11 starts at $700, compared to $750 for last year’s iPhone X (prices for premium models will remain the same). The cost cut is likely due to the less-than-stellar sales of Apple’s pricier products last year.

But the costs weren’t the only things that Apple cut… 

… It also cut some legal corners to get there

A few days ago, a watchdog group called China Labor Watch accused Apple of breaking a bushel of laws at its Zhengzhou Foxconn facility, the world’s largest iPhone factory (it’s often called “iPhone city”).

The report accused Apple of 18 workers’ rights violations ranging from forcing employees to work unpaid overtime to subjecting employees to verbal abuse to employing more contract workers than permitted by Chinese law. 

An Apple spokeswoman said most of the allegations were untrue — but admitted that Apple employed too many contract workers. 

According to Chinese labor law, no more than 10% of a factory’s labor force can consist of contract workers — who are paid overtime wages but often lack benefits.

But at iPhone city, more than 50% of employees worked on contract — meaning Apple exceeded the limit five times over. Apple often increases the number of contract workers on its force during busy times of the year — like, say, before a big product launch.

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