What it’s like to work inside an Apple ‘black site’ (for Apex Systems)

“Apple’s new campus in Cupertino, California, is a symbol of how the company views itself as an employer: simultaneously inspiring its workers with its magnificent scale while coddling them with its four-story café and 100,000-square-foot fitness center,” Joshua Brustein reports for Bloomberg News. “But one group of Apple contractors finds another building, six miles away on Hammerwood Avenue in Sunnyvale, to be a more apt symbol.”

“This building is as bland as the main Apple campus is striking. From the outside, there appears to be a reception area, but it’s unstaffed, which makes sense given that people working in this satellite office — mostly employees of Apple contractors working on Apple Maps — use the back door,” Brustein reports. “Workers say managers instructed them to walk several blocks away before calling for a ride home. Several people who worked here say it’s widely referred to within Apple as a ‘black site,’ as in a covert ops facility.”

“It’s not uncommon for workers not to make it that long. According to 14 current and former contractors employed by Apex Systems, a firm that staffs the building as well as other Apple mapping offices, they operated under the constant threat of termination,” Brustein reports. “Apex, not Apple, manages the workers it hires. Apple says it requires contracting firms to treat workers with ‘dignity and respect.’ Following an inquiry from Bloomberg News, the company says, it conducted a surprise audit of the Hammerwood facility and found a work environment consistent with other Apple locations.”

“While companies aren’t required to disclose the sizes of their contingent workforces, there’s ample evidence that tech companies use large numbers of contractors and temps,” Brustein reports. “Last year, Bloomberg News reported that direct employees at Alphabet Inc.’s Google accounted for less than half its workforce.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Ah, yes, temp work usually sucks. That’s hardly a newsflash, so it seems a rather blatant bit of hit-whoring for Bloomberg News to abuse the name of Apple in such an oblique manner.

These people do not work for Apple Inc., they work for Apex Systems.


  1. MDN, no. Didn’t you learn your lesson from Foxconn? A company in Apple’s employ who exploits child labor and creates working conditions that foster large numbers of suicides–to the point of necessitating suicide nets on their building facilities–does not insulate Apple from their responsibilities for those abuses.

    That said, if what we’re talking about here is a highly secure / confidential work environment for a client with exacting demands, and employee safety and well-being are not being endangered, then it’s run-of-the-mill crappy job carping.

    But “These people do not work for Apple Inc., they work for Apex Systems,” isn’t going to cut it.

  2. Before blasting Apple for exploiting child labor at Foxconn, you’d better provide evidence for such practices. That is a horrible notion.

    I’ve visited factories in China (audited them) 3 times thus far, and a 4th time this year.

    I would say this as an actual participant: It is Apple, and other high-tech US companies that have leveled the business practices of exploration in China to amazingly low rates. It is the US companies that DEMAND safe working conditions of they will not use these CMs. It is the US companies that DEMAND using non harzadous materials and well ventilated and lit environments.

    Put China back without Apple and others from the US in charge of China’s facilities – in other words, leave Chinese companies completely alone to their own vices, and thousands would be dying – per day. Not kidding.

    Before blasting Apple, you better get your head screwed on straight and visit them over there, and understand WHO it is that has RAISED the standards not crushed them in China.

    1. I have read that the suicide rate at Foxconn’s plants was roughly the same as for American universities. Young people, away from home for the first time, make some terrible choices when faced with emotional, cultural or other setbacks.

      According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, roughly 1 percent of college students attempt suicide; deaths from suicide average about 7 for every 100,000 individuals. https://www.sprc.org/sites/default/files/migrate/library/SuicideAmongCollegeStudentsInUS.pdf

      During the big “suicide binge” at Foxconn back in 2010-11, a total of 18 workers killed themselves (according to a story in Forbes). But Foxconn had a workforce of roughly one million at the time. Their suicide rate was actually lower than for China as a whole (22 suicides per 100,000).

      Just because something gets a lot of media attention, it’s not necessarily because it’s a thing. A few years back, the news was filled with stories of shark attacks, and every shark sighting made the national news. Turns out, that year had relatively few shark encounters, and very few shark attacks are fatal. But you wouldn’t know if from the headlines.

    2. I think we’re on the same page here. I’m not blasting Apple for exploiting child labor. I’m pointing out that they (rightly) stepped up and owned the issue. They did not shrug and say, “these people aren’t Apple employees.”

      MDN has said exactly that. As if this has no bearing on Apple. Of course it does.

  3. I think using outside contractors to dodge getting a bad reputation for exploiting your workers is a shitty thing to do. If true, Apple deserves to get dinged, and I support any activists pushing for Apple to make this right.

    That said, just because Bloomberg News says a thing is happening is no reason to believe it is. They still haven’t retracted their apparently-bullshit story “The Big Hack”, which has no evidence, has been refuted by their main “expert” source, and which everyone involved has denied on the record and in some cases under penalty of perjury when answering Congressional queries.

    Read more:

  4. “hit whoring” eh no…. because other companies do it, is not a justification for doing it oneself. As the worlds largest company, and by their own admission, very keen on personal rights and human dignity. They more than most should be weeding out and baking from their supply chain, such labour practices. You would do well to remember the Foxxcon saga

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