Former President George W. Bush and CEO of the Texas Tribune Evan Smith sat down together at SXSW, talking immigration reform, Bush's love of painting and election integrity, during which Bush confirmed that he does not believe the recent presidential election was "stolen," as some falsely claim.
Bush came to the session promoting his new book, "Out of Many, One: Portraits of America's Immigrants," a compilation of 43 handpainted portraits of immigrants by the former president. He said his subjects because "they're all very compelling," and "they made enormous sacrifices to get here."
"They had to help in getting here and once here, they helped other people," Bush said. "That's a very important thing for people to understand: around our country the contributions people make oftentimes are not heralded but do make a difference in the communities in which they live."
Included in his book was a story about Paola Rendon, who worked for the Bush family as a housekeeper and "second mother" from 1959 until her death a few years ago. Bush said he watched her "work hard, save money" and eventually bring her children to the U.S. from Mexico.
Smith came prepared with tough questions for Bush, asking him why those crossing at the border have been used, by some, to make a case again against immigration.
"I used to say when I was governor, you probably forgot this memorable line, but family values don't stop at the Rio Grande River," Bush said. "People come across to work on jobs that need to be done to provide for their families, and Paola was one such person. Of course she didn't sneak in, she came on a work visa."
While a Democrat-controlled House gears up to vote on two bills that would give around 11 million immigrants legal status, Republicans have yet to challenge with a plan of their own. As the former Governor of Texas from 1995-2000 and being part of a longstanding Republican dynasty, Bush's views don't fit in with his party's current stance.
Rather than opposing immigration, Bush said he thinks there should be a clearer path to citizenship and work visas. While he agrees with his colleagues that the border needs to be enforced, he recognizes that immigration reform is a complicated task that needs a form-fitting answer.
"One of the things that will help enforce our borders is to have worker visas that match the needs of our economy so people don't have to sneak into work," Bush said. " I do believe there needs to be a path to citizenship. I think Congress is going to have to be mindful to make sure that those who are undocumented don't get to jump ahead of the line of those who are documented and have played by the rules, but nevertheless, I think it's in our nation's interest to bring people out of the shadows."
While speaking with Smith, Bush addressed the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, saying the event undermined the rule of law. "I was sick to my stomach, and then to see our nation's capitol being stormed by hostile forces," he said. "It really disturbed me."
One more thing that Bush disagrees with his party about: Joe Biden is the rightful president. The former president denied that there was election fraud and, when asked by Smith if the election was stolen, Bush said no.
"I think the results of this election were confirmed when Joe Biden got inaugurated as president," Bush said. "He surrounds himself with a good team, listens to them and makes decisions in a crisp way, and you know, he's an experienced guy."
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Last fall, Janneke Parrish was pushing hard in her advocacy at Apple. She wanted to see flexibility with remote work, pay equity and for Apple to respond to Texas’ six-week abortion ban with paid time off and coverage for the procedure under the company’s health insurance plan.
Then, in October last year, she was fired.
Parrish, who lives in Round Rock and worked at Apple’s Austin campus as an Apple Maps program manager for about five years, is a leader of an internal movement at the tech giant. It comes at a time when the company is expanding its local presence with a new $1 billion Northwest campus with space for 5,000 employees.
Parrish worked at this Apple campus on West Parmer Lane. (Steven Joyner)
In August, the movement known as #AppleToo launched a website with the goal of organizing employees and sharing stories about alleged workplace harassment and discrimination. Austonia talked to Parrish and another former Apple employee who are part of the movement about their claims in what they observed while working for Apple.
“I’ve been advocating for members of my immediate team within Apple for several years,” Parrish said. “And when I realized that the issues that I was seeing with my own team were true throughout Apple, there was a natural transition toward, ok let’s expand this advocacy and instead be more of an advocate for everybody at Apple to ensure that we the workers at Apple are treated fairly and equitably and get treated as human beings.”
In the lead-up to her firing, Parrish faced an allegation that she had leaked details from a recent all-hands meeting to the Verge. She says she suspects it’s this, along with her advocacy, that influenced Apple’s decision to fire her.
“I didn’t do (the leak). And I know that Apple knows I didn’t do this,” Parrish said since a few employees including herself didn’t have access to that meeting due to a system crash that day. “I was still placed under investigation.”
As a requirement of the investigation, Parrish turned in her work devices. Before doing so, she wiped the files from her computer, saying she didn’t want her personal files on Apple servers. After a few days on paid suspension, she says human resources called and told her she’d been terminated with the reason being that she’d deleted those files.
Parrish is one of the leaders of the AppleToo movement. (Janneke Parrish)
Before Parrish’s firing, Apple was taking action on leaks and workplace organizing. An internal memo from 2018 noted a number of leakers they had caught were arrested. About a month before Parrish was fired, the tech giant had fired a senior engineering program manager for allegedly leaking confidential information. And in a September note, CEO Tim Cook sent a note to all Apple employees saying “people who leak confidential information do not belong” at Apple.
Austonia asked Apple about Parrish’s case and other matters at the company. In an email reply, the company said:
“We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters.”
Another piece of Parrish’s advocacy involved career opportunities for workers, particularly those based in Austin.
Even though Apple upped their presence in Austin in recent years, Parrish said Austin-area employees couldn’t enjoy networking opportunities like California workers did as Apple events were held on the West Coast. Texan Apple workers shouldn’t have to relocate to move up, she said.
“For those of us in Austin, I noticed, especially for my department, my career options were extremely limited,” Parrish said. “I was told by a manager that if I really wanted to advance in my career, I would have to move out to California.”
Parrish said Apple employees in Austin do not have the same career opportunities as those in California. (Shutterstock)
Austonia spoke to another member of the organizing group AppleToo. She requested anonymity to not hinder future job prospects in the tech industry. She’ll be identified with the pseudonym Mary.
Mary said she’s worked at Apple since 2008 in Austin, starting off as a contractor in customer support at iTunes and moving around over the years, leaving the tech giant earlier this month.
“It’s too hard to advance and there are no opportunities for development so (I was) just kind of stuck in a dead-end job,” Mary said.
Mary felt that another challenge was being a woman at a tech company. Starting out, she says she was the lowest paid in a training class of mostly men with pay of around $30,000, which rose to about $55,000 by the time she left.
But aside from pay, communication also proved to be a hurdle. To make her persona appear gender-neutral, she changed how her name was displayed on Slack, the interoffice directory and over email to just her first initial.
“The hard part was when I would have to get into a meeting with people then I felt like my voice is giving me away now,” Mary said. “But when I could avoid having meetings, I felt like it did make a difference.”
Mary says there’s been some movement in the right direction. An internal memo in November affirmed employees’ right to discuss pay after it had shut down employee-run pay equity surveys and an employee-run Slack channel. Earlier this month, it announced new efforts in a racial equity and justice initiative.
“We all want to see positive changes from Apple,” Mary said. “We all want them to look at wage disparities. We’d like to see more diversity—more minorities in leadership positions, more females in leadership positions.”
Still, Mary feels there’s more to be done. “I wish Apple was more responsive at making bigger changes,” she said.
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The Texas French Bread Bakery, located on 2900 Rio Grande Street, has been completely destroyed after a fire erupted on Monday night.
The Austin Fire Department responded to the fire just before 11 p.m., where they arrived to see flames coming from the roof of the bakery. Firefighters fought the fire for about an hour before the roof collapsed.
While no one was injured in the fire, firefighters say the historic building was completely totaled.
Texas French Bread just went up in flames pic.twitter.com/agXqKN3c00
— Jordan (@AimIessFriend) January 25, 2022
AFD determined that the fire was accidental and caused by mechanical failure. AFD said the damages amounted to $1.6 million total: $1.1 million in structural damage and $500,000 in damage to the contents of the bakery.
This year, Texas French Bread will celebrate 40 years of business. Before the bakery occupied the building, it was the Rome Inn, a music venue that hosted 1970s artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan.