Apple staff claim forcing them to work in-person will lead to a ‘whiter, male-dominated’ workforce

A group of Apple employees have accused the big-tech giant of racism over its push for corporate workers to return to the office, saying that the shift back to an in-person model will make the company ‘younger, whiter, [and] more male-dominated. ‘

The employees, organized under the newly-formed group Apple Together, petitioned the company on Friday in an open letter after CEO Tim Cook told staffers that they would need to work from the office one day a week starting on April 11, two days per week after three weeks, and three days per week after May 23.

They wrote that the decision to bring employees back to the office was not motivated by a ‘need to commune in person,’ as Cook wrote in his letter to staff, but rather was driven by the company’s fear of the future of work, fear of worker autonomy [and] fear of losing control. ‘

Although Apple will ‘likely always find people willing to work here,’ the group wrote, the shift back to working in the office will ‘change the makeup of [the company’s workforce]. ‘

‘It will lead to privileges deciding who can work for Apple, not who’d be the best fit,’ the group wrote.

‘Privileges like “being born in the right place so you do not have to relocate”, or “being young enough to start a new life in a new city / country” or “having a stay-at-home spouse who will move with you. “‘

‘And privileges like being born into a gender that society does not expect the majority of care-work from, so it’s easy to disappear into an office all day, without doing your fair share of unpaid work in society. Or being rich enough to pay others to do your care-work for you. ‘

Rather than ‘throwing money at the problem and just increasing referral bonuses to replace those of our colleagues who left over the executive team’s inflexibility,’ the group advocates for continuing a remote work model so that ‘everyone who wants to work at Apple is able to do so. ‘

There has been a marked uptick in diversity at Apple amid the pandemic, although it is unclear whether this was driven by the company’s shift to remote work.

In 2014, the company’s workforce was made up of 70 percent men and 30 percent women, but those percentages have shifted – according to Apple’s 2022 Inclusion and Diversity Report, 65.2 percent of the workforce is now male and 34.8 percent are female.

Apple’s leadership saw an 87 percent increase in female employees worldwide, the company boasted, and its total female workforce grew by 89 percent.

The company hired more minorities than ever before in 2021 – that was, 25 percent of Apple’s leadership roles and 41 percent of its retail positions were filled by Black and Hispanic workers.

Pictured it Apple's HQ in Cupertino, California.  CEO Tim Cook announced that employees would be returning to the office one day a week starting on April 11, then gradually increasing to three days per week starting May 23

Pictured it Apple’s HQ in Cupertino, California. CEO Tim Cook announced that employees would be returning to the office one day a week starting on April 11, then gradually increasing to three days per week starting May 23

Although Apple will 'likely always find people willing to work here,' the group wrote, the shift back to working in the office will 'change the makeup of [the company's workforce]. '  People are pictured walking past an Apple retail store in New York City

Although Apple will ‘likely always find people willing to work here,’ the group wrote, the shift back to working in the office will ‘change the makeup of [the company’s workforce]. ‘ People are pictured walking past an Apple retail store in New York City

Apple Together’s qualms extended past diversity, however – the group laid out five additional reasons for their displeasure with the company’s return to in-person work.

They bemoaned that the company would force employees to make unnecessary commutes to work, and called out a disconnect between the company’s marketing to customers using its products to work remotely from around the world and its treatment of staffers.

‘How can we understand what problems of remote work need solving in our products if we do not live it?’ reads the letter.

They also mocked Cook’s description of ‘the serendipity that comes from bumping into colleagues,’ arguing that this fanciful vision was impossible between the company’s 37 US offices even before the company went remote during the pandemic.

‘We are not all in one place. We do not have just one office, we have many. And often, our functional organizations have their own office buildings, in which employees from other orgs cannot work, ‘they wrote. “This siloed structure is part of our culture.”

In September, while tensions over the company’s return to in-person work were still brewing before Apple’s plans to bring workers back were thwarted by the onset of COVID-19’s Delta variant, Apple engineer Cher Scarlett spoke out to Vox about this expectation of in- person collaboration.

‘There’s this idea that people skateboarding around tech campuses are bumping into each other and coming up with great new inventions,’ said Scarlett, who joined the company during the pandemic and became a leader in organizing her colleagues on pushing for more remote work. ‘That’s just not true.’

Scarlett, one of two founding members of Apple Together when it was first formed in August under the name ‘Apple Too,’ left the company in November and has pending complaints with the labor board.

She and Janneke Parrish, who was also fired and has also filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, encouraged staffers to come forward with stories of racism, sexism or discrimination in their workplace.

A spokesperson for Apple Together told CNN Business, an employee who works on hardware engineering in the Bay Area and asked to remain anonymous, told the outlet that there are about 200 workers within the group – in total, Apple has more than 100,000 employees in the United States.

Apple CEO Tim Cook (pictured) said in an email to staffers that employees would need to start returning to the office - but Apple Together, a newly-formed group of employees, said that this would 'lead to privileges deciding who can work for Apple '

Apple CEO Tim Cook (pictured) said in an email to staffers that employees would need to start returning to the office – but Apple Together, a newly-formed group of employees, said that this would ‘lead to privileges deciding who can work for Apple ‘

‘There is such a huge disconnect between executive leadership and the individuals,’ the employee said, ‘The further you go up in the chain, the more that empathy erodes.’

Apple Together said in its letter that it was much easier to collaborate with coworkers from their home offices, rather than Apple’s newer offices with open floor plans.

They also hit out at the company’s recent decision to keep employees in different departments and locations of the company in separate Slack workplaces, making it ‘impossible to create shared community spaces where serendipity could have happened.’

‘We are not asking for everyone to be forced to work from home,’ the letter read. ‘we are asking to decide for ourselves, together with our teams and direct manager, what kind of work arrangement works best for each one of us, be that in an office, work from home, or a hybrid approach.

Apple’s correspondence to employees comes after other Big Tech giants, like Twitter and Facebook, have told its employees that they can work from home indefinitely.

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