Apple Workers, Alleging Discrimination and a ‘Culture of Secrecy,’ Mobilise

Apple Workers, Alleging Discrimination and a ‘Culture of Secrecy,’ Mobilise
Photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Will Apple be the next front in the tech labour movement? In tandem with an informal pay transparency survey, a group of employees posted a website on Monday for #AppleToo, an initiative devoted to collecting stories from Apple workers, from retail to corporate, and address an alleged pattern of discrimination.

“For too long, Apple has evaded public scrutiny,” they write. “The truth is that for many Apple workers — a reality faced disproportionately by our Black, Indigenous, and other colleagues from minoritised racial, gender, and historically marginalised groups of people — the culture of secrecy creates an opaque, intimidating fortress. When we press for accountability and redress to the persistent injustices we witness or experience in our workplace, we are faced with a pattern of isolation, degradation, and gaslighting.”

The Verge reports that 15 people organised AppleToo. More than 350 people have joined their Discord server.

Tellingly, one organiser says, Apple repeatedly suppressed efforts to even conduct the pay transparency survey. Cher Scarlett, a principal software engineer at Apple who co-organised the effort on Slack and Discord, told Gizmodo that three internal surveys were shut down: two for allegedly collecting “inclusion and diversity data” such as race and another for being hosted on Apple’s corporate Box account. “I was told that several managers in retail and corporate filed complaints against me, and that other leaders, and the people team were actively discouraging people from participating in the survey and/or discussing their pay,” Scarlett said via email.

That gels with a Verge report earlier this month, which includes messages from Apple’s people team warning against “prohibited surveys,” framing such efforts as the improper collection of employee data. It’s Apple’s privacy-forward marketing to consumers, except to suppress their workers.

Apple has not responded to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

The results shared with Gizmodo, surveying approximately 2,300 people, showed pay discrepancies by gender and race. They’ll need more respondents from different areas of the sprawling 147,000-employee company to compile a more complete picture of salaries at Apple.

That said, the survey, which is broken up by factions of departments and job levels, does begin to put pieces of the full picture in place. The majority of workers surveyed were mid-level tech workers at “ICT3” and “ICT4,” levels which apply to software and services, corporate functions, hardware, machine learning and AI, operations and supply chain, and retail.

The median reported salary for males in ICT3 was around 3% higher for non-male counterparts, while whites and non-whites in that category reported roughly equal pay. At ICT4, males reported a 2% higher median salary than non-males, which was roughly the same discrepancy between whites and non-whites. Again, more data is needed: In most cases, the categories broke down to a few hundred employees; more males responded than non-males; and more whites responded than non-whites.

But Apple’s reported decision to suppress the survey itself testifies to the “opaque, intimidating fortress.” Understanding inequities at a company, especially pay, is a protected right and one of the most fundamental tools to begin organising.

One area to rally around could be increasing wage and wage floors across classes. ZipRecruiter reports that 59% of Genius Bar workers make less than $US47,500 ($65,883) per year, while only 12% of entry-level iOS developers make less than $US52,000 ($72,124) per year. It finds that the lowest salary threshold for Genius Bar workers is $US17,500 ($24,273), while that number is $US24,000 ($33,288) for developers.

Apple employees can connect with AppleToo here and tweet at the group here, where they’re already sharing stories.