FORTUNE -- The first paragraph of the commentary posted Wednesday on the website of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank founded by, among others, Clinton-era labor secretary Robert Reich, lays out the thrust of the argument pretty succinctly:
"For more than a year, there has been a high-profile debate over what Apple should do with its enormous cash reserve, now amounting to $137 billion. The proposals have been curiously one-dimensional, with a nearly exclusive focus on how the reserves should be used to reward its shareholders. Almost entirely absent from the discussion has been whether those reserves should also be used to provide fairer compensation to the workers making its products abroad or selling its products here. This imbalance is part and parcel of a larger trend: the share of economic rewards going to workers is diminishing."
It's not an idea many Apple (AAPL) investors are going to want to hear, especially with the stock down more than 36% from last September's highs. But as author Isaac Shapiro points out, long-term shareholders have nothing to complain about. Those who stuck with the company over the past five years have seen the value of their investments grow more than three-fold.
Less amply rewarded are the 30,000 Apple Store employees who make as little as $25,000 a year. Or the roughly 1 million Asian contract workers who take home, before overtime, between $225 and $288 per month.
Shapiro doesn't diminish the work Apple has done to raise pay scales and improve working conditions in its Asian supply chain. Nor does he suggest that Apple's competitors are doing better.
But he does point out that some of the pledges Apple made have not been fulfilled.
For example, in March 2012 Apple promised that workers assembling Apple's devices in Foxconn's factories would be compensated for hours they had worked in the past that had not been paid for, including pre- and post-shift meetings, time spent in mandatory trainings, and as many as 30 minutes of "unscheduled overtime" on any given day.
According to Shapiro, none of that back pay was ever issued, and it appears that none is forthcoming.
[UPDATE: Several readers questioned this section, so I followed up with the Fair Labor Association, under whose auspices the back pay issue was investigated. According to the FLA, the unscheduled overtime issue affected only one worker, and it turned out he hadn't filled out his time card. On the other issues -- mandatory training and pre- and post-shift meetings -- the FLA determined that it was a problem. The remedy proposed was for Samsung to change its practices and pay its workers for the such time going forward. No back pay was issued.]
He's got more examples, laid out fairly dispassionately, in $45+ billion for Apple shareholders, nothing yet for Apple workers.
As I say, it's probably the last thing Apple investors want to hear on yet another down day for the stock, but it does put those demands for bigger dividends and multibillion dollar stock buybacks in some perspective.
Will Tim Cook say anything newsworthy or material? Don't hold your breath.
FORTUNE -- Given the advance buildup -- a headline-grabbing billionaire, a high-profile proxy fight, a hedge-fund lawsuit, a federal judge's preliminary injunction and those cutesy iPrefs -- Apple's (AAPL) annual shareholders meeting today is likely to disappoint.
For one thing, the proposition that created all the fuss -- a change in the company's articles of incorporation that would have prohibited the issuance MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 26, 2013 11:08 AM ET
The Street is taking bets on how many billions might be distributed to the shareholders
FORTUNE -- In the wake of the David Einhorn's legal challenge and Apple's (AAPL) statement in response, a flurry of analysts' notes:
Bill Shope, Goldman Sachs: The capital allocation theme heats up. "While we do not take a view on the basis of the legal proceeding, we believe this latest example of shareholder activism serves to highlight Apple's MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 8, 2013 10:34 AM ET
Simply and transparently? Or through a complex scheme designed by a hedge fund?
FORTUNE -- After Thursday's Wall Street drama -- in which a media blitz orchestrated by hedge fund billionaire David Einhorn got a rise out of Apple (AAPL) management and a pop in the stock price -- I have a few thoughts about what's going on.
First, I take the company at its word (see statement) that it's got way more MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 8, 2013 6:35 AM ET
What do any of their concerns have to do with building great products?
FORTUNE -- If Tim Cook needed further validation of Steve Jobs' policy of ignoring the needs and entreaties of Apple's (AAPL) shareholders, the results of the survey at right, released Wedenesday, could provide it.
It comes from a recent luncheon in New York City with several dozen Apple investors that was hosted by Barclays analysts Ben Reitzes and Anthony DiClemente.
If "the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 12, 2012 11:45 AM ET
The company is likely to hold on to its $100 billion cash hoard -- at least for now
I suspect that the number one question on the mind of Apple (AAPL) shareholders gathering today at 1 Infinite Loop for the company's annual meeting is what Tim Cook plans to do with Apple's roughly $100 billion in cash and marketable securities.
"I think it's clear to everyone, and I'd be the first to admit, MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 23, 2012 8:02 AM ET
Like Google and Groupon, Facebook's letter expressed a defiant idealism that -- eventually -- must confront the realities of business.
By Kevin Kelleher, contributors
FORTUNE – For Internet companies going public, the founder's letter is becoming a ritual with a purely symbolic value, a rite of passage into the adulthood of public markets. Larry Page and Sergey Brin started it when Google (GOOG) went public in 2004. Andrew Mason raised it to MOREFeb 3, 2012 12:16 PM ET
Steve Jobs skipped the meeting. COO Tim Cook -- his heir apparent -- presided.
Apple's (AAPL) shareholder meeting got off to a slow start as latecomers filled the company's Town Hall auditorium nearly to capacity.
CNBC's Jon Fortt reported shortly after 1:00 p.m. EST that COO Tim Cook, not Steve Jobs, had taken the stage and was introducing the board of directors.
The most controversial shareholder proposal -- that Apple adopt a detailed MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 23, 2011 1:33 PM ET
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