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The US labor council accuses Apple of using illegal tactics against retail workers

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Apple deployed illegal means to suppress unionization in Atlanta this year, according to a ruling by the NLRB. The Cupertino company is accused of “interrogating and coercing” employees, Bloomberg relations, discriminating against union supporters and organizing mandatory anti-union meetings.

Despite the ruling, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) lacks the power to impose punitive damages, but its actions could lead to a federal case if Apple refuses its remedies. The NLRB concluded that Apple violated federal law by interrogating and coercing employees, and while the board has historically declined to rule against mandatory union bust meetings, it indicates that that could change in the near future. General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo argues that gatherings of the “captive public” are inherently coercive and illegal, and she is pursuing lawsuits against other companies that could change the precedent.

Unions have attempted to establish themselves in an unprecedented number of Apple retail stores this year, with mixed results. In June, staff at a Maryland store voted to join the International Association of Machinists (IAM), making it the first unionized Apple Store across the United States, just 21 years after opening the first branch, while employees in Oklahoma City chose to join the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in October. But other attempts were unsuccessful, and Apple’s role in the negotiations came under increasingly harsh spotlight.

The IAM withdrew an application for unionization for a store in St Louis in late November, despite the apparent support of 82 employees, complaining that “union-busting practices and increased hostility toward workers” were factors in his decision. The union accused the company of “requiring employees at the St Louis Apple store to attend a captive public meeting and threatening reprisals if employees choose to organize with the IAM.” The NLRB has also issued a complaint against Apple about it a shop in New York, citing the interrogation and surveillance of staff and discrimination against union supporters. And it was reported this year that Apple sent a script of anti-union speeches to its retail managers.

But the best-known case involves the Cumberland store in Atlanta, where the CWA withdrew a unionization bid in May, just days before the vote was due to take place. The Union accused Apple of “a systematic and sophisticated campaign of intimidation [workers] and interfere with their right to form a trade union”.

Apple’s stance on unionization is uncompromising and difficult to defend. It has discussed that “union organizations don’t have an understanding of how Apple works and may not be as committed to employees as Apple is.” Try telling that to the employees who in 2021 reported “a deep break how the company’s corporate values ​​translate to the front lines.” They said complaints about working conditions and pay were ignored, that performance evaluations were based on factors beyond their control, and that insufficient support was provided to employees exposed to stressful situations.It would be interesting to see what a union well supported by such working conditions would do.

In February, Apple changed his salary for retail workers, doubling sick days from six to 12, increasing vacation days for full-time and part-time employees, and adding paid parental leave and discounted childcare benefits.

“Apple executives think the rules don’t apply to them,” the CWA said in response to the NLRB ruling. “Holding an illegal meeting of the public in forced captivity is not only union disruption, but an example of psychological warfare. We commend the NLRB for recognizing captive audience gatherings for exactly what they are – a direct violation of labor rights.”