After months of internal controversy over workers’ wages at one of the world’s most beloved companies, Apple has announced that employees have the right to discuss working conditions and pay, according to a memo obtained by NBC News.
Since 2016, Apple has said its workers in the United States receive equal pay for equal work. But he quietly put an end to workers’ attempts to validate that claim, according to two current and former employees.
Now, according to the memo, Apple is telling staff it has the right to discuss its salaries and voice concerns outside, a major change for the notorious undercover tech giant.
The note was posted on Apple’s internal site, which the company’s 80,000 hourly and salaried employees in the United States have access to.
“Our policies do not prevent employees from speaking freely about their wages, hours or working conditions,” the memo reads. “We encourage any employee with concerns to raise them in the way that works best for them, internally or externally, including through their manager, any Apple manager, People Support, People Business Partner or Business Conduct.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.
The language asserts a right granted to private sector employees under the national labor relations law, which allows workers to organize and discuss their hours and wages.
The note echoes the language of Apple’s business conduct policy, which says that nothing in the rule “should be interpreted as restricting your right to speak freely about your pay, hours or working conditions.” .
Apple declined to add similar wording to its employment contracts at the behest of a group of activists and shareholders earlier this year. The company said the language was already covered by its business policy, according to tech activist Ifeoma Ozoma.
The memo is a victory for Apple organizers like Cher Scarlett, who said in a National Labor Relations Board charge that the company had restricted their ability to discuss wages and working conditions by shutting down informal wage surveys and by blocking a Slack pay equity channel.
Since August, eight charges of unfair labor practices have been filed against Apple on issues ranging from illegal dismissal to harassment. One of these charges was dismissed.
The NLRB, the federal agency that oversees U.S. labor law, is investigating the remaining seven counts. If he finds it credible, he can force Apple to publish a notice similar to the one published today, claiming that workers have the right to speak out.
“This is a victory for the workers because it shows that Apple knows they would have lost if it had been tried,” said Veena Dubal, professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law. “But it also underlines how little the law deters unfair labor practices and how little workers can get when their organizational rights are violated.”
For months, Apple employees brushed off the lack of transparency about people’s income.
Apple’s Diversity and Inclusion page states, “All over the world, employees of all genders earn the same pay when they engage in similar work with comparable experience and performance. But employees who conducted informal wage surveys discovered possible wage gaps and asked Apple to explore them further. They say the company didn’t.
The company also closed three pay equity surveys conducted by employees, citing rules prohibiting the collection of personally identifiable information and the hosting of surveys on the company’s corporate account.
In September, Scarlett, an Apple software engineer, filed a complaint with the NLRB against the company, alleging it retaliated against workers who engaged in protected activities while attempting to discuss their salary. She recently made an arrangement with Apple and asked the NLRB to drop her accusation.
“Cher and other courageous employees have helped shine a light on the pay equity and transparency issues at Apple,” said attorney Aleksandr L. Felstiner. this has not happened before. We hope that the crucial organizational work will continue.
Scarlett said she couldn’t talk about the details of her settlement. She also couldn’t say if she plans to continue organizing with #AppleToo, an advocacy group she helped found.
Janneke Parrish, one of the group’s co-founders, was fired from Apple in October after deleting files from her work phone during an internal leak investigation. She also filed an unfair labor practice charge against the company, alleging that she retaliated against it for organizing.
Parrish said she sees Apple’s latest memo as a major victory for employees.
“What we’ve been saying for months is that workers have rights and that our voices deserve to be heard,” she said. “Apple has made numerous attempts to prevent us from using our voices and discussing working conditions and compensation. This statement shows that we have the legal right to speak. It also shows the power of workers’ voices in unison. When we work and talk together, even the biggest companies need to hear us.