Protest outside Apple HQ during shareholder meeting

February 23, 2012 8:06:43 PM PST
A watchdog group held a small protest outside Apple's Cupertino headquarters Thursday morning over working conditions in China where iPads and iPhones are made. Thursday, Apple also held its annual shareholders' meeting.

Despite recent media coverage by ABC News and The New York Times, the subject never came up during the company's 90-minute annual shareholders meeting, the first since co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs died in October. Afterwards, long-time shareholders told ABC7 News that they were surprised.

"Long line of people to talk, and I thought that would be one of the issues, and it wasn't," shareholder Donna Dernier said.

Dernier, a long-time Apple investor, was surprised China didn't come up. She understands why pressure is building on Apple.

"Of course it isn't only Apple, it's all electronics companies; Apple's just the one that they think has enough integrity to actually get in there and make some changes," Dernier said.

New CEO Tim Cook took six questions from investors after a 28-minute business meeting during which Cook reviewed highlights of Apple's past year, which he called "mind-boggling." Shareholders asked instead about dividends, stock splits, scholarships for science and engineering students, and plans for a long-rumored big screen Apple TV. Apple has over $100 billion in cash and short-term investments.

Cook pointed out that Apple generated $108 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year, which was a 66 percent increase over the previous year. That spike, Cook said, was greater than the growth of HP, Dell, Nokia, HTC, Google and RIM combined.

The group SumOfUs.org rallied on a sidewalk near the major driveway into the Apple campus. Its leaders said it had petitions with 300,000 signatures, urging Apple to improve working conditions at the Chinese factories owned and operated by Apple contractors. Apple recently gave ABC News Nightline exclusive TV access to the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen, China, where iPads and iPhones are made.

Cupertino resident Dana Johnsen thinks shareholders are the key to making change.

"I think they need to apply pressure; I think they need to stop looking for more and more, I guess, growth and money," Johnsen said.

Apple shareholders also re-elected its incumbent board of directors, according to a preliminary count of proxy votes. Directors include former Vice President Al Gore and Walt Disney Company CEO Robert Iger. Disney is the parent company of ABC and ABC7. The Steve Jobs Trust is the largest shareholder of Disney.

Starting next year, Apple said it would begin electing board members by majority vote instead of electing them as a slate of candidates. It made this announcement before it released results of a shareholder proposal to do majority voting for board directors. The proposal received 80.35 percent approval in the preliminary count of proxy votes.

We'll hear from shareholders and from the activists as we update this story on ABC7 News at 4 and 6.


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