Washington, D.C. – Apple’s legal team argued in a recent federal filing that the tech giant should not be obliged even to ask shareholders whether it should protect its employees, and potential hires, against blacklisting and other adverse employment actions on the basis of their political views or moral philosophy.
Apple’s filing is in response to a Free Enterprise Project (FEP) shareholder proposal that asks the tech giant to produce a report detailing the potential risks to the company that arise from allowing discrimination on the basis of political affiliation or viewpoint. Apple has not only failed to prohibit the practice on its own, but has also refused to authorize the report on potential risks arising from such discrimination, or even to put the question of whether to authorize such a report to its shareholders. Instead, Apple petitioned the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to allow removal of FEP’s proposal from its proxy statement and to deny the company’s investors the right even to consider the resolution.
“Rather than embrace a prime opportunity to rectify this glaring omission in its non-discrimination policy, Apple is wasting its shareholders’ resources to fight even having to ask its investors whether it should prepare a report to see if McCarthyist viewpoint discrimination is a bad idea,” said Scott Shepard, FEP coordinator at the National Center for Public Policy Research. “Apple is either unaware or unwilling to admit that it is fighting tooth and nail to keep open its option to revisit the dark old days of blacklisting and the sort of viewpoint discrimination that hobbles civil society. We had hoped for better from a corporation that ran a Super Bowl ad more than 30 years ago warning of exactly these perils.”
The current state of Silicon Valley harkens back to “the McCarthy Era,” when government and private industry “blacklisted” those with minority political viewpoints, costing them their jobs and their livelihoods. Major political, media, and literary figures rallied against McCarthyism, with the result that the American people reached a broad consensus that discrimination in employment on the grounds of political viewpoint was beyond the pale. Recently, though, that consensus has weakened, especially in Apple’s own Silicon Valley, where instances of viewpoint discrimination in employment have begun to appear again, along with an increasing sense of the pervasiveness and dangers of such discrimination.
In prior eras, discrimination was largely aimed against Communists or those on the far left of the American political spectrum. These days the bias is aimed toward the right. But this time the blacklist doesn’t threaten only those with fringe beliefs. Mainstream right-of-center conservatives are being “deplatformed,” harassed, driven to silence – and even driven out of their jobs and educational opportunities – throughout the educational and technology worlds.
FEP’s proposal asks Apple to allow shareholders to vote on whether to prepare a report on the potential risks that arise from failing to prohibit viewpoint discrimination. It notes:
Companies with inclusive policies are better able to recruit the most talented employees from a broad labor pool, resolve complaints internally to avoid costly litigation or reputational damage, and minimize employee turnover. Moreover, inclusive policies contribute to more efficient human capital management by eliminating the need to maintain different policies in different locations.
In response, Apple petitioned the SEC asking that it be allowed to remove FEP’s proposal. Apple claimed that its current anti-discrimination policy, which provides no protections for those with differing political views, is good enough, and that shareholders had already demonstrated their comfort with a company culture that does not protect employees’ freedom of opinion.
“Apple’s effort to block our shareholder resolution is part of a continued pattern of the tech giant’s anti-conservative bias,” said FEP Director Justin Danhof, Esq., the author of the shareholder proposal. “Last year, we asked Apple’s board to consider expanding the viewpoint diversity of its monolithically liberal set of directors, but the company steadfastly refused. At that same shareholder meeting, an audience member told company CEO Tim Cook about her close friend who works at Apple and who lives in fear of retribution every single day because she happens to be a conservative. What she described was the textbook definition of a hostile work environment. So we filed a resolution seeking to protect such employees. Now Apple’s leadership is essentially saying it wants to retain the right to punish employees for conservative thought.”
“This discrimination has no place in American workplaces, colleges, communications platforms, or American life generally. It’s just as wrong now as it was in the 1950s, no matter who it victimizes,” said Shepard. “Most of us learned about the horrors of McCarthyism as we grew up, but now Apple’s leaders seem to have forgotten the lesson. The SEC should reject Apple’s embarrassing and tin-eared opposition to our proposal. We hope and trust that the shareholders will be able to remind Apple that the company was once a place that fostered and protected free thought and expression.”
Launched in 2007, the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project focuses on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. Over the past four years alone, FEP representatives have participated in over 100 shareholder meetings – advancing free-market ideals about health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and other important public policy issues. As the leading voice for conservative-minded investors, it annually files more than 90 percent of all right-of-center shareholder resolutions. Dozens of liberal organizations, however, annually file more than 95 percent of all policy-oriented shareholder resolutions and continue to exert undue influence over corporate America.
FEP activity has been covered by media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Variety, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, Drudge Report, Business Insider, National Public Radio and SiriusXM. FEP’s work was prominently featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kimberley Strassel’s 2016 book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).
Earlier this year, Investor’s Business Daily published an op-ed by Danhof regarding the capitulation of Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet to liberal diversity pushers. It is available here
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 60,000 active recent contributors. Contributions are tax-deductible and may be earmarked for the Free Enterprise Project. Sign up for email updates here.
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