Does big tech need to be held accountable?

Luay Rahil

There are consequences for speaking out, and there are consequences for staying quiet?

Which consequences would you rather struggle with?

Last month, some Apple employees organized themselves to protest Apple management's treatment after raising concerns about equal pay issues and safety risks.

Cher Scarlett led the fight against Apple, and she is no stranger to fighting.

Scarlett is a high school dropout who struggled with addiction most of her life. She worked as a stripper to fund her drug habit. Scarlett flirted with suicide and had to fight to stay alive. After getting sober, she taught herself how to code and became a member of Apples's elite software engineering team.

At Apple, Scarlet found financial security but not equality. She claims that Apple discriminates against women and other historically underrepresented groups, including disabled people. So, instead of staying quiet and enjoying her new financial situation, she decided to speak out.

Scarlett joined a small number of Apple employees who are willing to criticize Apple publicly. They called themselves the #AppleToo movement.

These accusations are disturbing but not surprising. In recent years, more than 20,000 Google employees protested against sexual harassment and inequality. Uber employees always complained against the same issues resulting in Uber firing more than 20 employees.

Susan Fowler, who worked for Uber in 2015, wrote a detailed blog post about her experience at Uber. She mentioned one incident when her manager propositioned her for sex, and when she complained, the management told her, "The women of Uber need to step up and be better engineers."

Pinterest is not doing any better. Last year, Pinterest had to pay a $22.5 million gender discrimination settlement with its former COO Francoise Brougher after investigations revealed that women of color are not treated fairly.

Facebook employees are dealing with identical issues. Last week, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen became the highest-profile tech whistleblower of all time when she told Congress that Facebook was putting profit before safety. But, unfortunately, the sad truth is that her claims didn't shock anyone. Everybody in the world knows that Facebook violates many privacy rules.

However, this time is a little different. Ms. Haugen backed her claim by sharing internal documents that showed the company's executives knew that Facebook's services hurt some children's self-esteem and helped human trafficking. Yet, the company didn't want to stop these practices because they value profit over people.

Is Amazon doing better? If you answered, "No." You are correct.

Last month, Amazon settled a wrongful termination suit against two women it fired after criticizing its hiring policies and labor practices. These violations forced employees rights advocates to encourage workers to make their voices heard.

However, big tech companies are doing everything they can to prevent employees from speaking publicly or organizing. For example, last month, Amazon violated labor laws in the Alabama union election to stop their workers from organizing by interfering in the voting process.

So When Cher Scarlett spoke against Apple, I knew that Apple would fire her instead of investigating their internal practices. So, in the wake of her complaint, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a company-wide memo regarding the company's efforts to punish any leaker.

What bothers Cook is that Scarlett is not alone. #AppleToo movement consists of more than 500 employees — many working at Apple's retail stores. They all accuse the company of intimidating them and tolerating racism, sexism, discrimination, retaliation, bullying, sexual and other forms of harassment.

Cher Scarlett became the face of the #AppleToo movement due to her unfiltered opinions and her willingness to use Twitter to expose Apple's unfair practices, but the movement has other leaders like Janneke Parrish.

Lawyers who represent multiple former Apple employees claim that Tim Cook's anti-leaking memo might violate US labor law. However, Tim Cook insists on doing everything in his power to identify those who leak information to the public or authorities and punish them.

Are you surprised yet?

These giant tech companies are fighting back and willing to go after any employee who dares to expose their illegal practices or violations.

Just yesterday, Apple fired Janneke Parrish, co-lead of the #AppleToo movement. Parrish was terminated for deleting files off her work devices during an internal investigation, but most employees believe that Apple is retailing against her for daring to organize the #AppleToo movement.

Companies will find the smallest thing to fire any employee who challenges them. Everyone is expendable, and profit will always come before people.

The irony of this situation is that Apple's slogan is "Think Different," and when their employees had new ideas for safe work conditions, career development, and pay transparency, Apple executive said, "No, not like that."

Zoë Schiffer, a senior reporter at Verge, spoke with Janneke Parrish, who says, "She plans to sue Apple for wrongful termination. She explained the details of why she was fired and her views on the future of the nascent organizing movement."

Timnit Gebru is another visible face of this movement, and she understands the risk of exposing Apple's illegal practices; however, she vows to continue the fight.

The fight is not over, Char Scarlett, Janneke Parrish, and Timnit Gebru have a long road ahead of them, and Tim Cook will do everything to make their life difficult.

I almost managed to finish my article without mentioning Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO. Zuckerberg controls Facebook with an iron fist, and he surrounds himself with people who know how to protect his company. For example, last week, he discussed Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen at length during an internal meeting — but never mentioned her by name.

He knows how to protect his brand, and Facebook employees will have to be very careful and very efficient as they work to expose Facebook practices.

Final Thoughts

I know a lot of people won't like reading this article. They will say, "These employees are rich, and why should they expose their employers."

My answer is simple. If these employees place money before people, they are no different from companies willing to sacrifice our democracy and risk our safety to make more money.

If you work for a company that cuts corners and commits illegal activities, you are responsible for stopping them and risk getting fired. This is a risk that I'm willing to take, and most of us should be ready to take it at any moment.

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Writing on business, culture, leadership, and social issues.

Fort Worth, TX

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