NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — New York City will get its latest Apple store on Friday with the opening of the much-anticipated Grand Central Terminal location.
Not everyone is thrilled, however.
1010 WINS’ Eileen Lehpamer With More On The Story
A planned protest outside of the grand opening will be aimed at highlighting minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are used in many electronics.
An online petition launched on Change.org wants Apple to commit to building an iPhone and other devices without gold, tin, tantalum, and tungsten mined in eastern Congo.
The country has been entangled in years of war and a humanitarian crisis that has left almost 3 million people dead by some estimates.
“Government troops and militias fight to control these mines and in the process they do really awful things — like murdering and raping civilians,” Charlotte Hill, of Change.org, told 1010 WINS’ Eileen Lehpamer.
Like “blood diamonds,” a term the United Nations describes as stones that “originate from areas controlled by forced or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments,” demonstrators say the commodities are “blood minerals.”
Hill said the movement started with a man in the Congo, who created an petition on their site demanding Apple become the first electronics company to pledge to use “conflict-free” minerals.
So far, 10,000 people have signed it. Hill said every time someone new signs the petition, an email is sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Organizers expect about a couple dozen protesters at the main concourse Friday.
While there was no response from Apple on Thursday, former CEO Steve Jobs told a concerned customer: “Until someone invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it’s a very difficult problem.”
Meanwhile, the Apple store at Grand Central has also drawn criticism recently for what some called a “sweetheart deal” with the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
At its current New York flagship store on Fifth Avenue, Apple pays what’s called “percentage rent,” which involves sharing revenue with its private landlord. That figure is reportedly in the ballpark of $15 million per year.
However, at Grand Central the landlord is the MTA, which collects “percentage rent” from every retailer except Apple. That is because the retailer cut a deal with the MTA for a straight lease, totaling about $1 million a year.
The MTA said its leverage to negotiate with Apple was limited because no other company made an offer on the space.
“We believe we have maximized the potential revenue from this unique opportunity in light of Apple’s policy not to enter into new percentage rent agreements,” an MTA spokesperson said.
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