Tech employees are organising — but not in the way you might think
Apple is unionising. This week, a group of disgruntled employees announced their plans to begin organising under the header ‘AppleToo’, releasing a press statement on their website setting out their demands.
The content of the statement may be somewhat unexpected to those who still associate industrial action with material issues like working hours and pay. Apple’s employees are far too sophisticated to worry about that: they are more concerned with “patterns of racism, sexism, inequity… and unchecked privilege” in the company, and the “gaslighting” they receive from management.
AppleToo is relatively insignificant, at least for now – there are only 15 employees directly involved in the organising effort. It’s undeniable that the group has made a splash, with one activist claiming to have received “hundreds” of stories from employees, and finding herself having to choke back tears from all the “self-gaslighting” on display. AppleToo’s twitter account is awash with raised fist emojis and proclamations of ‘solidarity’.
Perhaps the strangest thing about the #AppleToo fiasco is that it is not the first time the tech world has formed a pseudo-union. Employees at Google’s parent company, Alphabet, launched their own unionisation drive last year under the name ‘Alphabet Workers Union’ (AWU), with an even more woke list of demands — and just as apathetic towards the issue of worker pay.
Silicon Valley has historically proved difficult ground for organising, thanks to a lack of demand coming from the extremely well-compensated ‘knowledge workers’ employed there. After all, what’s a pay rise when you’re busy saving the world?
This messianic mindset still seems to guide the organising ethos of the new tech unions. A Wired profile sums up the AWU mission well:
It is easy to laugh at these big tech organising drives — after all, they aren’t creating a labour union in the traditional understanding of the term. However, they do have a certain degree of internal coherence: if a union is understood as any organisation that exists to promote the interests of its members, then we get a better picture of what values this group holds.
Tech unions show just how irrelevant old-school class struggle has become to those who would paint themselves as being on the Left. Groups like AppleToo are now expected to hold the same role the utopian socialists of old saw themselves fulfilling: the moral conscience against the worst excesses of liberal capitalism. Never mind those at the bottom of the pile at the mercy of tech oligarchs: hire more of our cohort as diversity consultants and indulge our propensity for performative activism, and we will stay in line. So dedicated are the unionised workers to ensuring success of Apple and co. that they have put themselves forward as full-time Human Resources commissars.
The young employees hired to work at these prestigious institutions are ambitious, and rightly so. Prospects for graduates seeking to enter the work place are bleak — and there is more competition for the few high-status jobs available than ever. No wonder, then, that those trying to carve out a position for themselves are willing to use whatever tactics at their disposal. In practise, this means the weaponisation of marginalised identities to mark yourself out from the competition — and freeing up more senior positions by harshly enforcing the ideological line you have set out. The similarity of the branding #AppleToo to #MeToo is no coincidence: employees are desperate to oust the ‘pale, male and stale’ from their coveted positions, cloaked in the language of victimhood.
The public-facing CEOs representing Big Tech are easy to blame (and to hate), but Tim Cook isn’t hunched over his laptop scheming which 10k-follower anon account to ban next. A good number of his workers, however, seem to be. If these woke pseudo unions succeed in their takeover, we may all be nostalgic for the simpler days of cold, hard, market capitalism.