#AppleToo Organizer : A Brief Chat with the Fired
Apple fired a leader of the #AppleToo movement on October 14th for allegedly failing to cooperate with an internal inquiry. Janneke Parrish, the employee, has been working behind the scenes for months to organise coworkers who have been harassed or discriminated against.
Apple now appears to be putting a stop to those efforts, ostensibly to prevent internal information from leaking to the public. Ashley Gjvik was sacked by Apple in September for allegedly violating her confidentiality agreement. Then it put Cher Scarlett, a software engineer, on medical leave.
Both Gjvik and Scarlett have filed NLRB complaints. According to Parrish’s lawyer, Vincent P. White of White, Hilferty and Albanese, Parrish intends to suit for wrongful termination and file a case with the NLRB.
The Verge spoke with Parrish about her organising efforts and the circumstances surrounding her dismissal.
Tell me about your experiences in the last several months. With the Antonio Garca Martnez letter, you began internal advocacy, correct?
Janneke Parrish (Janneke Parrish): Yes, and that was the first time I saw staff involvement at Apple make a difference. I was already in the Slack channel for remote work advocacy at the time, and I wanted individuals to be free to make the best options for themselves in terms of how and where they worked.
However, we learned with the Antonio Garca Martnez letter that activism may be beneficial — that when people speak up, executives may pay attention. More letters from the remote work group followed, requesting more flexibility in where we worked. This time, though, we didn’t get the same response; instead, we were told, “We think it would be best to be back in the office.”
Employee advocacy is critical for ensuring that our voices are heard, but there is a limit to what we can do inside. You might as well not be speaking at all if you’re speaking to people who don’t want to listen to you.
What led you and Cher Scarlett to collaborate on #AppleToo?
Cher was working on salary advocacy at the same time as I was doing remote advocacy. We met as a result of a need to lobby for pay equity, which evolved into #AppleToo.
I was in charge of the employee tales section, which involved sharing the stories of people who had been abused and discriminated against, and who had tried to reach out to Apple through the routes it recommended but received no response. It’s the storey of distant advocacy being told on a large scale throughout the company — that we’re continually ignored and undervalued.
I’m not sure how someone can look at hundreds of stories like that and not act.
So that’s what I’ve been doing.
What effect has it had? You don’t seem to have gotten the same internal pushback as Cher and Ashley.
I’ve gotten a lot of encouraging notes, but not nearly as much criticism. I honestly have no idea why.
I’m in charge of a programme. I’m not an engineer, and my department doesn’t have the same level of visibility as theirs. I’m in Maps, and the visibility isn’t quite the same. I’m also trying to stay out of the spotlight.
And I’m not in California; I’m in Austin. Many of Apple’s arguments for returning to work are California-centric and irrelevant to folks in Texas. They talk about bumping into folks in the hallways But in Austin, I never bump into executives!
What date did the investigation begin?
On September 18th, a town hall meeting was live-streamed to you. After thereafter, Tim Cook wrote out a note expressing that he was disappointed and that he will track down the leakers. Following the release of that document, Apple began looking into the matter.
I was summoned to a meeting with HR and global security on September 30th and informed that I was being investigated for possibly leaking the meeting. My devices were seized, but not before I uninstalled apps that included personal information, such as Robinhood. Apple isn’t interested in how much money I spent at GameStop. I work on political campaigns, and information on Democratic political efforts must be kept private.
So, before returning the devices, I erased this data. I was given a loaner and instructed to work, which I did.
On October 8th, I was contacted by global security and HR, who informed me that I had been suspended and that they had taken the loaner devices as well as disabled all of my internal accounts. I was in the middle of a conversation with someone when my internal accounts became “deactivated.”
This slowed down my job as well. The fact that it happened at all — I work in Maps, and we deal with extremely confidential material, so keeping things hidden is critical to our success. So, even though I was being probed, my time on Maps was up.
I received a call from global security and HR on Thursday, informing me that I had been fired for destroying the data.
Why was that personal data on your business computer to begin with?
We’re encouraged to try out the maps and new features on Maps. Because I was the programme manager for tools, I wanted to know that our tools worked properly. Using my business phone as a personal phone allowed me to try things out in the field, which is something we are encouraged to do. Apple promotes the integration of [our personal and professional gadgets]. That sounded absolutely reasonable when I first got the phone. But, in retrospect, it was most likely not.
What are your thoughts on why you were let go?
I feel I was dismissed in retaliation for speaking out, for my work with #AppleToo, and because I was putting up a group to help other employees voice their stories. This, in my opinion, is purely punishment for attempting to expose Apple’s wrongdoings and publicly urging the corporation to improve.
Now that you’ve been sacked and Cher is on medical leave, is #AppleToo over?
No way, I don’t believe so. I believe that Apple’s decision to dismiss an employee for speaking up and pushing the company to improve rather than really improving speaks a lot about the company and its objectives. I hope that people recognise Apple’s action for what it is: a motivating decision. My mission is to improve Apple for everyone. And it appears that Apple is less concerned about this than I am.
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