Nearly 1,000 Apple employees have signed an internal letter to CEO Tim Cook urging the company to issue a public statement in support of the Palestinian people, The Verge reported Thursday.
“We are frustrated and disappointed because once more, many of those in positions of power and influence – who boldly stand for human rights in so many other just causes – either choose to remain silent or release ineffectually neutral ‘both sides’ statements with regards to the Palestinian situation,” wrote the letter’s authors, who are members of the Apple Muslim Association, according to The Verge.
Apple taking a “both sides” approach, they wrote, “would feel to us as the equivalent of ‘all lives matter’ – a minimization of the disproportionately larger pain and suffering of the Palestinian people.”
Apple did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
The letter follows a wave of violence in Gaza, where Israeli military forces have killed at least 232 Palestinians, including 65 children and 39 women, and the militant group Hamas has killed around a dozen Israelis.
The letter to Cook is the second high-profile instance of a large number of Apple employees criticizing the company over ethical concerns in the past week alone – a rare occurrence at Apple.
Last week, The Verge reported more than 2,000 employees signed a letter slamming Apple for hiring Antonio García Martínez, citing “misogynistic” and racist past comments. Hours later, Apple said García Martínez had left the company (García Martínez claimed Apple fired him).
Apple engineer Antonio García Martínez has left the company following employee backlash over his comments about women and people of color, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.
“At Apple, we have always strived to create an inclusive, welcoming workplace where everyone is respected and accepted. Behavior that demeans or discriminates against people for who they are has no place here,” Apple spokesperson Tom Neumayr told Insider.
The Verge reported earlier Wednesday that Apple employees had circulated a petition demanding an investigation into García Martínez’s hiring, citing “misogynistic statements” in his 2016 autobiography, “Chaos Monkey.”
“Most women in the Bay Area are soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of s–t,” García Martínez writes in the book, according to The Verge.
“Given Mr. García Martínez’s history of publishing overtly racist and sexist remarks about his former colleagues, we are concerned that his presence at Apple will contribute to an unsafe working environment for our colleagues who are at risk of public harassment and private bullying,” the employees wrote in the petition, according to The Verge.
They also said Apple’s hiring of García Martínez undermines its commitment to its stated values as well as its diversity and inclusion goals, and asked Apple to guarantee García Martínez won’t be involved in “hiring, interviewing, or performance decisions.”
In a rare show of public protest from Apple employees, several took to social media to criticize García Martínez’s hiring.
“It’s so exhausting being a woman in tech; sitting opposite men who think because of my gender, I am soft and weak and generally full of shit,” one Apple engineer wrote on Twitter, referencing the quote from “Chaos Monkey.”
“I have been gutted, as many other folks at Apple were, with the hiring of Antonio García Martínez,” another engineer tweeted.
Apple and other large tech companies have made little progress increasing diversity among their ranks, despite years of public promises – particularly among technical and leadership roles, which tend to pay higher.
According to Apple’s 2020 diversity report, 34% of employees were women, while women held just 24% of technical and 31% of leadership roles. In 2014, women made up 30% of the company and held 20% of technical and 28% of leadership roles.
In 2020, white employees made up 47% of the company overall but held 59% of leadership roles, compared to 55% overall and 64% of leadership roles in 2014.
Moral convictions may not be the only reason that GOP lawmakers are turning their back on former President Donald Trump.
Lawmakers who voted against certifying Joe Biden as president may also be rethinking their stance after losing corporate funding, experts told Insider.
After Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in a desperate bid to overturn the presidential election results, which turned into a violent insurrection leaving five people dead, businesses have been quick to cut ties with Trump and the lawmakers who backed his baseless claims of election fraud.
“I think senators are gonna be squirming,” Hambrick said.
As more FBI reports and video footage of the riots are released, more companies will take action, making “senators squirm all the more,” Hambrick added. This could ultimately affect how senators vote, he said.
“These corporations could have a substantial effect on senators’ votes,” he said.
“The Senate vote could be very much not in Trump’s favor.”
Trump’s closest political allies are under pressure from some members of the party to continue supporting Trump and from companies and other politicians to pull away from him, Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, told Insider.
“People are saying it’s primarily because of the corporate cuts he faces and his party faces. Observers are tracing his own about-face to these corporate cuts,” Hambrick said, citing news reports he had read.
“People have traced it to all the cuts in corporate donations, specifically to him.”
In recent years, companies have been increasingly grouping together to write open letters, Hambrick said, but these may not have as big an influence on politicians.
“If the Business Roundtable wrote a letter, it would have some effect, but not as much as cutting political donations,” Hambrick said.
Companies have likely cut funding to specific politicians before, Hambrick said, but “nothing on this scale, nothing with as much fanfare or visibility.”
Businesses are also taking other actions in response to the siege, but these aren’t necessarily directed at politicians, Forrest Briscoe, a professor of management at Smeal College of Business, Pennsylvania State University, explained.
Twitter, for example, purged 70,000 accounts associated with QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory, and Amazon Web Services, Apple, and Google were among the companies who cut ties with Parler, a social media site popular with Trump supporters.
Briscoe also referred to the New York Stock Exchange. Jeffrey Sprecher heads up its parent company, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). Sprecher is married to Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, an avid Trump supporter who supported his baseless claims of election fraud.
Loeffler had been among the lawmakers planning to vote against Joe Biden’s certification as president, though she changed her mind after the siege. But her years of support for Trump could still cause businesses to rethink their relationship with the NYSE, Briscoe said.
As more information is released related to the siege, “it’s gonna be uglier and uglier, and employees and customers are gonna lean on these companies to do something and basically punish the Republicans who helped bring this about,” Hambrick said.
Companies are getting increasingly political
“A lot of us are hesitant to wade into political waters,” a CEO told Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, founder of Yale’s Chief Executive Leadership Institute, on condition of anonymity. “We don’t want to bring politics into the boardroom or to our employees.”
“But we need to recognize that threats to the rule of law are legitimate business issues,” they continued.”It’s totally legitimate and therefore also very important that we speak out on these issues.”
The number of companies responding to the Capitol siege will increase in the coming weeks, Briscoe said, and feeds into a longer-term trend of businesses becoming more political.
Their reasons for engaging in sociopolitical activism vary, he added.
“Sometimes it’s clearly in the interests of the firm, and sometimes it’s not, it’s just about values and beliefs and positions that people have as citizens or personally,” Briscoe explained.
Often, the companies decide to take action because of demand from their employees, Briscoe explained. Over recent years, staff have become increasingly vocal about their sociopolitical stances and have lobbied their companies to take action, he said. Google employees, for example, fought against Alphabet’s contract with the US government’s defense department on Project Maven, a drone warfare project – and, after months of protests, the company said it wouldn’t renew the contract.
But it’s not just employees who may have urged companies to respond to the Capitol siege.
CEOs are under pressure to consult their boards before they take actions such as cutting or limiting corporate funding, Hambrick said. And the directors may even have proposed the idea to the CEO in the first place, he added.
And here they have the backing of customers, too. Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of companies pausing funding, too, The Harris Poll found. In its survey of 1,960 Americans, nearly three in four said they support companies pulling the plug on political donations for the time being.