Is a New Age of Employee Activism Dawning at Apple?

Apple Park campus cafeteria doors opening

There has been much controversy this week over the hiring, and subsequent exit, of Antonio García Martínez at Apple. The former Facebook product manager and author of the book Chaos Monkeys had published a variety of sexist and racist comments. His hiring provoked anger amongst existing Apple employees. What’s interesting about this case is that, even as tech employees get more active, this is the first real example of a backlash from Cupertino staffers.

The Start of Employee Activism at Apple

The eye-catching nature of an Apple employee backlash was noted by Ina Fried at Axios, and also Casey Newton, who reported on the incident for The Verge and in his Substack newsletter, Platformer (which, if you don’t already, is well worth subscribing too). There, he wrote:

On one hand, you can understand why Apple would be unlikely to anticipate the outrage that hiring García Martínez would ultimately generate internally. We are now years into collective actions at tech giants spilling out into public view, whether it’s Googlers protesting sexual harassment or Amazon workers demanding action on climate change. But whatever internal conflicts Apple employees may have been working through — or whatever public controversies the company may have been facing — it has always stayed inside.

So this is a significant moment. How significant, we will only know in the future. I think it unlikely that we will see the levels of employee activism that we’ve seen at Amazon or Google at Apple in the very near future. However, at the very least, Apple managers will surely now be more conscious when vetting potential employees. As Mr. Newton put it:

Suddenly at Apple, as everywhere else, managers can only stand back and watch as workers reshape the bounds of what will be permitted at work.

5 thoughts on “Is a New Age of Employee Activism Dawning at Apple?

  • Employee activism at Apple? Not b-likely! When it suits Apple to spin a bad management hire into a good news story… and only when it suits management, more likely.

    Totally agree with John K on this one. This is a distraction from a bad management decision. There’s no chance the book nor his abrasive attitude to -anyone really- were missed by HR. And the book is merely being used to justify the dismissal. This is definitely a bad fit and a public excuse, to make Apple appear woke to social justice warrior employees, when in reality it knowingly employed this guy.

    This incident reveals Apple’s social justice stance as image only. Google got away with transparent stunt of Management giving permission to employees to publicly protest the company’s values. (No one on the tech media pointed out the oxymoron of management permitted industrial action. Too onboard with woke culture, perhaps?) Supposedly socially responsible Apple has no concept of employees speaking out on issues. It’s not in Apple’s DNA. Discipline is complete! This appears to be a controlled tension release for frustrated woke employees. Bad fit hire can be spun into a positive if we let employees think they can be activist at work, let them feel like they have a voice, say we fired him at employees’ request. Apple looks woke. Employees feel empowered. And the media is so hysterical with woke, it won’t question how this guy got hired in the first place.

    Cook’s Apple has been marked by acquiescence to employees that don’t actually fit Apple’s culture. Junk windows-like software with no idea about consistent functional design is Cook’s legacy. Future Apple products seem doomed to ineffectual functionality. Mac gets dumber every year in the name deliberately-limited-for-mobile iOS compatibility, the multitasking malaise affecting iOS and Federighi’s comment that he thought the first iOS apps on Mac were ok design choices, not limitations of the technology (just a few examples) show Apple no longer has the intellectual capacity for elegant and useful software. The beloved Federighi is revealed to be ineffective manager of, and custodian for, Apple’s legacy of software excellence. Captive to his employees, he’s more interested in being cool and hip than developing staff into intelligent and disinclined programmers before unleashing them on the flagship product (iPhone/iOS).

    Adding woke to Apple’s growing list of ways inmates run the asylum is just Cook spending more of Apple’s legacy. He’s done a great job growing the customer base into the market that can’t really tell that Windows is crap, but Apple needs someone with energy, vision and will, to get the company back on track. How soon after abrasive Jobs departed did Apple decide that it would rather have nice management rather than effective management? Forstall may have had his uses…but I seriously doubt Facebook’s advertising culture was ever going to contribute to Apple. Cook letting employees think they can dictate policy is a reckless move indeed. This is not a company that listens to ANYONE.

  • The individual that should be fired is the person who hired Antonio Garcia Martenez. It’s easy to blame the so called “activists” employees but when any individual gets tagged for offensive behavior or comments in the past it should always be about them owning their personal past. More due diligence on the part of the personnel department could have avoided the backlash from employees and a potential payout to an individual that has already cooked his own goose.

    1. Disagree. The people that should be fired are the “intolerant to different thought” mobs at Apple that engage in woke activism rather than doing their jobs.

  • Maybe if these activists stfu and actually did work we’d have more good work from Apple rather than woke mobs. Apple could sorely use Steve Jobs firing a bunch of these useless activists in the elevator to level set back to reality. Instead of a chef, Apple has a cook that still hasn’t leaned basic business lessons of diversification of product supply while Apple moves to quash diversification of thought by letting these bozos form intimidating mobs inside the company.

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