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Apple employees urge management to act on Gaza conflict

Palestine flag [Pexels/Seyma D.]

A group of Apple employees are urging Apple's leadership to do more for the Palestinian community, accusing the iPhone maker of punishing workers for taking a public stance on the Gaza conflict.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and other members of the executive team have been called out by a group of approximately 300 employees in an open letter about the Israel-Palestine war. The executive leadership at Apple is claimed to be too silent on the matter, to the point where its affecting the workforce.

The open letter from the group, titled Apples4Ceasefire, claims it is disappointed and in shock at "the lack of care and understanding this company has given the Palestinian community, not only abroad suffering in Gaza, but also twards our own team members and anyone who supports them within our stores and offices."

The letter goes on to claim that, after an October 9 email from Tim Cook where he claimed his "heart goes out to the victims" of the violence, there hasn't been a similar message issued over 150 days later offering the same level of concern.

"In fact, anyone who has dared to express support of the Palestinian people in the form of kaffiyehs, pins, bracelets, or clothing, has been actioned against under the guise of breaking business conduct' and creating a harmful environment," the group insists. Apple is also accused of wrongfully terminating employees for showing solidarity.

A keffiyeh firing

A podcast from Palestine in America featuring the group identified one Palestinian retail employee at the Lincoln Park, Chicago Apple Store, who was let go for wearing clothes and accessories supporting Palestinian people, reports Wired. The employee reportedly asked multiple Apple managers if it was OK to wear a keffiyeh at work, only to be told it was OK so long as the Apple logo wasn't covered.

Weeks later, employee Madly (pronounced "Medley") Espinoza says that the stance changed and managers had both asked her not to wear the item anymore, and issued a disciplinary document about it violating store policy. She switched to wearing pro-Palestinian jewelry, again after getting approval from managers, with others at the store joining in.

Before Espinoza was fired on March 6, approximately 40 employees at the store were reprimanded for wearing supportive bracelets. Documents related to the firing don't disclose a specific reason for her termination, but she was allegedly told that her actions were "too political" and constituted "a harmful enviropnment."

Other current and former employees are quoted within the same podcast episode, being told by management not to wear the keffiyeh due to its political stance.

The group is now planning a protest outside the Lincoln Park store on Saturday.

A request for speech

The open letter adds that Apple is voted as one of the world's most admired companies, one that "emphasizes inclusivity and racial equality," and that Apple "must stand at the forefront of this humanitarian crisis and innovate socially just as we do technically."

It asks Cook and other executives to "end their silence on this crucial subject, and make it clear that Palestinian lives matter." Apple's silence means it becomes "more complicit in this horrific genocide," it adds.

"We work(ed) here because we love this company, want to change lives, and make the world a better place," the letter concludes. "How can we do that, when we remain silent on the issues that matter most?"

Apple employees have occasionally banded together to urge action or change within the company on sensitive topics. This is also not the first time that employees have sent a letter to Apple's management about Palestinian people.

A letter signed by nearly 1,000 members of staff was circulated within Apple in May 2021, urging the company to publicly acknowledge that millions of Palestinian people were suffering "under an illegal occupation."