The higher you climb the corporate ladder at Apple, the whiter it gets. That’s according to data analyzed by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the union that helps organize store employees in Apple stores.
While some Apple retailers fight for union recognition and a seat at the negotiating table, the CWA is using Apple’s own data to show how the company is falling short in its diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
Despite Apple’s efforts to cultivate a more racially diverse workforce, management positions are still lopsided, the data shows. While Apple did manage to hire more people of color, the data indicates that the company disproportionately promoted its white employees.
People of color at Apple are much more likely to work at low levels. According to Apple’s own data, collected between 2014 and 2021, the number of black and Hispanic employees increased by 70.1% and 93.1%, respectively. But for black workers, 85.6% of those jobs were in lower paying sales or administrative support roles; for Hipsanic people it is 60.8%.
Meanwhile, the number of whites in sales positions fell 24.9%, and the number of whites in the “senior/middle officials & managers” and “professionals” job categories grew 187.2% over a seven-year period.
The CWA report also found that Apple failed to report year-over-year increases in Black and Hispanic representation in its most advanced job classification, “executive/(senior) officials & managers.” According to Apple’s most recent employer information report (EEO-1), there are 126 employees in the highest job group. Of this group of highest paid employees, 77.7% are white. Only eight of the 126 senior managers are women of color.
Apple says it does not use these government-mandated reports measure its progress.
These findings come as no surprise to Sidney Lo, who worked at Apple retail locations in New York City for nearly 12 years and rose to store manager. When he left Apple, he posted his salary on LinkedIn as a gesture of pay transparency. More than 700 Apple retail employees follow in his footsteps shared their salary anonymously, including their gender and race.
“There are always two sides to Apple: Apple as a corporate entity and Apple as a retail entity,” Lo told TechCrunch. “I think from a decision perspective, some of these (DEI) decisions are being lost in the transition from corporate to retail, and retail to employees.”
Some Apple employees think a possible explanation for the lack of leadership diversity is that it’s unclear how to get a promotion, or what metrics weigh most heavily when considering pay increases. A current retail employee told the CWA that the path to career progression feels “arbitrary,” saying it’s “like playing Wordle,” except guessing the word changes the solution.
“Apple likes to adhere to these guidelines of some random form of stats that we don’t even know about… they don’t go by your monthly stats, weekly stats,” another store employee told the CWA.
A leader of the #AppleToo labor movement, former Apple software engineer Cher Scarlett found similar trends among Apple employees. In an internal survey Scarlett conducted in 2021 of nearly 3,000 respondents, she found that white men have far more opportunities to advance in the company.
“It is very striking not only that women and people of color tend to be in these lower positions, but also that rather than in hardware, AI, ML or software engineering, they are more likely to be in service or retail. ,” Scarlett told TechCrunch.
Scarlett also noted in this internal study that even when men and women worked in similar jobs for similar lengths of time, men generally had higher salaries than their female colleagues.
“The whites earn more than everyone else because they’re getting ahead,” Scarlett said.
Apple has a history of to block employee surveys on pay equality. Although Lo began collecting his data after he left the company, Scarlett found that Apple became increasingly hostile to her as she conducted her internal investigation. She eventually left the company after receiving a settlement and withdrawing a complaint she filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Around the same time Scarlett left Apple, Janneke Parrish, another #AppleToo organizer, was fired for “non-compliance”. The former Apple Maps program manager was fired for deleting personal files from her phone and computer before turning them over to Apple for investigation. She said The New York Times that she felt she was experiencing retaliation for her organization.
The same trends apply at the retail level. The CWA alleged that Apple was retaliating against five Kansas City union organizers, which were dismissed for attendance related matters. The workers said they felt they were being singled out as this type of layoff was historically uncommon at the store.
As with many other companies, the coronavirus pandemic brought underlying issues to the fore at Apple, sparking conversations among employees about unionization.
“I think it was really challenging to see how successful the company was during such a difficult time, and we weren’t getting extra pay,” Lo told TechCrunch. “We were just asked to keep doing more, like your work would expand into different aspects of health and safety. I was actually a nurse, as a manager.”
For the first time in the company’s history in the US, two retail locations in Towson, Maryland and Oklahoma City voted to unionize in 2022, despite Apple’s efforts to dissuade staff. Ahead of the union vote in Towson, Deirdre O’Brien, the billion-dollar company’s vice president of People and Retail, sent a video to 58,000 store employees warning them of the harms of unions.
Apple keeps the same anti-union law firm, Lesser Mendelson, which stands for companies like Amazon and Starbucks. The NLRB found it merit to complaints that all three of these companies violated labor laws that protect workers’ rights to organize. At Apple in particular, the NLRB found that the company was illegally interfering with the organization of labor in stores in the city of New York and Atlanta.
Along with the release of its report today, the CWA is calling on Apple to stop working with Littler Mendelson and adopt a policy of union neutrality. Microsoft recently adopted a similar policy, stating that the will not intervene with the right of workers to organize themselves. This policy helped 300 employees at ZeniMax, a gaming division within Microsoft, earn voluntary recognition for their union.
When reached ahead of publication, an Apple spokesperson was not commenting at the time of writing.