How Apple workers have captured the public’s attention over internal policies

January 11, 2022

Written by Haley Corzo

In a span of one week at the turn of the year, Apple found itself amid major headlines for not one, but two different points of interest regarding its workers — employees staging a walkout and engineer retention incentives. 

Apple employees have been speaking out about perceived injustices in the workplace for many months, but the recent call for protections had to do with rising cases of Covid and workers staging a walkout on Christmas Eve. Just days after the walkout took place it was reported that Apple was offering restricted stock units thought to be valued at $50k to $180k to engineers as an incentive to retain talent and avoid further poaching from tech rivals. 

We looked at how these two stories were covered by the media and how they rivaled each other in terms of public engagement.

graph comparing public interest of Apple workers

The Apple worker walkout and bonus scheme generated interest in different ways, but the public clearly favored content about employees planning to walk off their jobs on Christmas Eve in terms of the level of interest. In total, the walkout earned 128.4k engagements to the bonus scheme’s 70.7k, nearly doubling the amount of engagement. 

The bonus scheme did, however, generate far more media coverage, with 866 articles published during this time period compared to the 176 articles published about the walkout. So, even with 4.9x the amount of articles published, news about the bonuses failed to win public interest. 

Media interest in the walkout began on Dec 23rd when it was officially announced, but the majority of coverage came on Christmas Eve, and the biggest peak in engagement took place over the Christmas holiday. Truthout’s article was principally responsible for the huge spike in public interest, and received over 26k engagements on Dec 25th alone. This was also the top article about the worker walkout overall, netting 44.7k engagements since its publishing. 

Apple walkout: organizer activities and the most engaged posts

The December walkout was not the first time that Apple employees had come forward about enduring poor working conditions such as little to no sick time, low wages, and ongoing internal harassment. Instead, this was a tipping point for workers who had begun organizing the #AppleToo campaign back in August.

Employees launched a Twitter account under the name Apple Together, a website, and a Medium blog where current or former employees could share their stories and have their voices heard. The Twitter account, which has accumulated over 9k followers in the last five months, was where the walkout was originally announced.

Apple Together’s tweet on Dec 23rd saw over 10k retweets and 16.8k likes, and attached in the thread were the workers’ requests for the walkout. Additionally, the tweet included a link to an emergency fund to aid Apple participants which had previously been established back in October due to separate concerns for Covid safety and trans worker rights.

Public interest lags in bonus scheme content

Three days after the walkout Apple was making headlines again, as articles about the bonus scheme came to the forefront. Bloomberg was first to break the news on Dec 28th, just as engagement with coverage of the walkout was waning. The article stated that Apple was looking to prevent defections to Meta by offering bonuses as much as $180,000. 

Most of the top articles about engineer bonuses saw fewer than 10k engagements. An article in Interesting Engineering took the top spot with 14k engagements, while Bloomberg landed in second with just over 10k engagements to its article. These were the only two publishers whose stories reached double digits.

Interestingly enough, despite lower public interest in articles about the bonus scheme, engagement to the bonuses on Instagram was twice as high as the walkout. A post from Bloomberg Business netted close to 60k engagements and offered a link to its full story in the page’s bio. This was the top performing piece of content of the walkout and bonus scheme combined.

Apple employees are now faced with navigating through complicated internal politics, where on one end, an advocacy group is battling for fair treatment of workers, and yet simultaneously there are top tier engineers being offered rare bonuses to stay. The media will continue to write about both, but for now, public interest remains high in worker conditions.

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