The Information: How Slack has led to Apple’s workplace issues becoming public

Over the last several months, we’ve seen a growing number of stories concerning the internal work environment at Apple, ranging from pay equality to remote work and more. Now, a new report from the Information has details on the internal efforts to organize this communication, much of which centers on Apple’s adoption of Slack amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Apple has long had a culture of secrecy that extended not only to new product announcements but also to public relations. In the wake of remote work and the pandemic, however, Apple adopted Slack as its internal messaging tool. “Slack has become a virtual town square” for Apple employees, the report says.

“Before Slack, it was difficult for employees to talk to somebody who works in retail unless you went to the store,” said Cher Scarlett, a software engineer on Apple’s global security team. “It was impossible to talk to someone who works in hardware as I don’t work with anyone there. You’re giving people a platform that allows them to connect with people they wouldn’t ordinarily connect with.”

Apple purportedly has over 3,000 internal Slack channels;

There are now 3,000 internal Slack channels at Apple, some with more than 10,000 members, making it far easier for employees to connect with each other and coalesce around common causes. Slack channels for different themes and advocacy groups at Apple quickly began to form, ranging from the mundane such as #announcements, #careers and #help-desk-support to common interest groups such as #talk-investments and #talk-trading.

Some channels revolve around religious affiliations such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Two of the more popular advocacy channels include #remote-work-advocacy and #talk-benefits, both of which boast more than 7,000 members, according to current employees.

The report details that one of the first situations organized through Slack was earlier this year when Apple employees revolted against the company’s hiring of Antonio Garcia Martinez. Since then, employees have used Slack to revolt against Apple’s return to work plans, pay equality, and more.

But Apple employees are also talking directly to the media, using Discord, and using Twitter to voice concerns. A small group of them also launched a website around the hashtag #AppleToo earlier this week.

Scarlett told The Information that Apple’s culture of secrecy was good for keeping new products under wraps, but not great for employee organizing. “Slack and social media have been absolutely the biggest catalyst in giving workers the ability to organize,” she said.

At the same time, speaking on the record to the media without official authorization, as Scarlett did with The Information, would have been almost unthinkable a few years ago for Apple employees. But Scarlett said she feels comfortable doing so because employees are protected from company retaliation when discussing workplace conditions. “A nondisparagement clause doesn’t mean you can’t say anything bad about the company,” she said. “You can openly talk about discrimination.”

The full report at The Information is well worth a read and can be found here. What do you think about this situation? Let us know down in the comments.

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