Apple Store Employees Say Coworkers Were Disciplined for Supporting Palestinians

Nearly 300 current and former Apple employees have published an open letter alleging that several retail and corporate employees of the company have been disciplined or “wrongfully terminated” for expressing support for Palestinian people through pins, bracelets, or keffiyeh.

The group, which calls itself Apples4Ceasefire, is planning a protest outside Apple’s retail store in Lincoln Park, Chicago, Saturday. In a podcast published last week with media outlet Palestine in America, the group alleges a Palestinian retail employee at that location was wrongly fired for wearing clothing and accessories showing support for Palestinian people. The podcast episode also elaborates on allegations made in the letter, making detailed claims about multiple Apple employees experiencing retaliation from managers.

The group’s letter, also released last week, also calls on Apple CEO Tim Cook and other executives to acknowledge the many deaths in Gaza from Israel’s assault on the territory in response to the Hamas attacks of October 7. Cook sent an email to Apple employees two days after Hamas attacked expressing sympathy for those who died or were bereaved, the letter says. It adds that “after over 150 days of violence against innocent Palestinian lives, there has yet to be a message sent expressing the same kind of concern for them.”

Apple did not respond for comment in time for publication.

Some 1,200 people died in the October 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas, Israel’s government has estimated. The UN reported last week that more than 32,000 Palestinians have died since the conflict began, citing data from Gaza’s Ministry of Health.

Tariq Ra’ouf, a technical expert at an Apple retail store in Seattle who helped organize the Apples4Ceasefire campaign, says that the vast majority of people who signed the letter are retail workers at Apple, with a few dozen signatories in corporate roles like product management or software development. Some 55 signatories identified themselves as former employees. The signatories hail from cities around the world, including Chicago; St. Petersburg; London; and Apple’s home base of Cupertino, California.

“Apple says that they want to make the world a better place,” Ra’ouf says. “This is a rare opportunity, a historic one, to actually do the work to make the world a better place.”

Corporate Dissent

Apple is not the only tech giant where workers have demanded executives show more recognition or support for Palestinians since the latest Israel-Hamas conflict began.

On March 4, more than 600 Google employees signed a petition demanding that the company withdraw its sponsorship funding for an Israeli tech conference in New York, with dozens of employees protesting outside the event. A Google Cloud software engineer interrupted a talk at the conference by Google’s managing director for Israel, calling for an end to Google’s work with the Israeli government under Project Nimbus.

Employees have noted that Nimbus tools are capable of mass surveillance, but neither Google nor the Israeli government has publicly stated that Nimbus is used for that purpose. The employee was forcibly removed from the event and then fired by Google the same week.

Business Insider reported in November that Apple had moved to quell internal friction over the Israel-Hamas war, deleting Slack posts about the conflict and “pausing” Slack channels for Jewish and Muslim employees.

Apples4Ceasefire claims in the podcast episode that the Palestinian retail employee in Lincoln Park fired by Apple for showing visible support for Palestinians is Madly (pronounced “medley”) Espinoza. In the episode, she says that she asked multiple Apple managers if it would be an issue for her to wear a keffiyeh to work. “The answer was no, as long as it wasn’t covering my Apple logo, anything that would show I’m an Apple employee,” Espinoza says on the podcast, so she began wearing it.

A few weeks later, she claims, management changed its stance and asked her not to wear the keffiyeh anymore, issuing a disciplinary document stating that wearing one violates store policy. Espinoza alleges that she asked management multiple times to identify those policies but did not receive an answer.

Espinoza claims on the podcast that she stopped wearing the keffiyeh but wore pro-Palestinian jewelry instead after seeking approval to do so from management. She says she got approval and received no further written warnings about her behavior or performance at work.

Around this time, many others at the Lincoln Park store also began wearing jewelry showing support for Palestinians, like bracelets with watermelons or phrases like “Free Gaza,” Ra’ouf, the Apples4Ceasefire organizer says. He says that shortly before Espinoza was fired about 40 Lincoln Park employees were verbally reprimanded by management for wearing the bracelets.

Espinoza was fired on March 6, Palestine in America says. She claims that her termination documents did not specify a reason, but in her podcast appearance she alleged that management verbally said that her actions were “too political” and constituted “a harmful environment.”

Several current and former Apple employees speak or are quoted on the podcast episode. One, who is not identified, is said to be a California-based Apple employee who doesn’t work in retail. He claims that Apple management instructed him not to wear his keffiyeh.

“I was wearing my keffiyeh, and I was told by my market leader and Human Resources that I was not allowed to wear my cultural garment at all, and it was not safe to wear due to the political stance and climate that it addresses,” the employee says. He adds that he was informed that he was not allowed to wear his keffiyeh even during breaks or lunch. “I was told I could only wear it to and from work,” he says.

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