Activists taking protest of iPad maker's rights record to Facebook

By Doug Gross CNN - On Wednesday, Apple is expected to unveil the newest version of its iPad with all of the breathless hype that typically attends the consumer-tech juggernaut's public events.

But some folks, many of them Apple customers and self-described fanboys and fangirls, aren't celebrating. Instead, they're calling on the company to shore up human rights concerns by manufacturing an "ethical iPad 3."

The creator of a campaign asking Apple to ensure safer conditions for workers at the Chinese plants that make its products is asking supporters to take to Facebook on Wednesday, posting pleas to Apple on the iTunes Facebook page.

Last month, Mark Shields, a self-described "Apple person," started a petition on Change.org. The petition has more than 241,000 signatures and asks, among other things, for Apple to create a worker-protection strategy around the release of new products such as the anticipated new iPad.

Worker-rights groups say that Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer that produces products for Apple and other tech companies, has a stringent, militaristic culture of surveillance and obedience. It's a culture that labor groups say contributed to a slew of suicides in 2010 at the company's Shenzhen plant -- prompting Foxconn to install nets in an effort to prevent employees from jumping -- as well as worker injuries and even deaths.

"Many of the people who have signed Mark's petition have expressed concern that without a strategy to prevent forced overtime, impossible production quotas and worker injury, that worker abuse, accidents, and even death may increase around the release of the iPad 3," said Amanda Kloer, campaign director at Change.org.

"Mark hopes that if Apple customers ask the company about how the iPad 3 was made, Apple will respond to his request for a worker protection strategy for new product releases."

Shields was traveling Tuesday and not able to be reached for comment.

Contacted by CNN on Tuesday, Apple did not have any comment. In a statement to CNN last month, Apple said it cares about all of the workers in its worldwide supply chain.

"We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made," the company said. "Our suppliers must live up to these requirements if they want to keep doing business with Apple."

After a wave of publicity last month that included a CNN interview with a Foxconn worker, Foxconn announced it had given workers a pay increase and was allowing an international labor-rights group to visit one of its facilities.

Kloer said Shields has never gotten a response from Apple about creating a worker protection strategy, even though he was promised one by the manager at a Washington, D.C., Apple store where he delivered the petition.

Shields and Kloer are asking supporters on Wednesday to post on the iTunes page on Facebook "asking for an ethical iPad 3."

Apple has not officially said what Wednesday's announcement will be, but all speculation centers on a new iPad. Many reports suggest it may actually be called the iPad HD to showcase a new, high-resolution display screen.

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