Apple 2.0

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Steve Jobs on Foxconn suicides

June 1, 2010: 4:00 PM ET

Apple's CEO personally promises action in a bizarre e-mail exchange with a customer

Source: MacStories.net

Adding his own voice to Apple's public statement on the matter, Steve Jobs has addressed the sensitive issue of worker suicides at Foxconn's Shenzhen factories in an e-mail exchange with a customer.

The electronic conversation was reported Tuesday in MacStories.net. A reader named Jay Yerex had sent Jobs a chain e-mail from LabourStart -- the online newsletter of the international trade union movement. The letter urged readers to put pressure on Foxconn (and the U.S. companies it supplies) to allow its workers to bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions.

Apple (AAPL) had already issued a statement expressing its regret at the number of deaths -- 10 so far this year -- and promising to conduct its own investigation.

But when confronted directly by Yerex with a note saying "You can do better!" Jobs took the bait. He responded with a series of messages in which he spent almost as much time clarifying misunderstandings as he did making his original point.

He did not address a report out of China that Apple is considering raising the salaries of Foxconn workers who build Apple products by paying them a percentage of the profits.

Below: The exchange in full.

Yarex:

Steve, You can do better!

Jobs:

Although every suicide is tragic, Foxconn's suicide rate is well below the China average. We are all over this.

Yarex:

What does "we are all over this" mean? As in investigating? Or who cares? I switched a few years ago from PC to mac. In fact when I was fired for trying to start a union, I bought my first Mac. I always thought Apple was socially responsible. I'm even giving up smoking to be able to afford an IPad. I may have to reconsider. Especially if you are over 12 deaths.

Jobs:

You should educate yourself. We do more than any other company on the planet: Apple – Supplier Responsibility

Yarex:

I have. Which is why I have always purchased apple products and admired you. It was the comment "we are all over this" that I found either confusing or offensive.

Jobs:

It's an American expression that means this has our full attention.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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