Why Apple Allegedly Harassing Its US Retail Workers

By Charlene Badasie | Published

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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) says Apple Inc. violated federal law by interrogating and intimidating employees attempting to unionize in Atlanta. The company was also found to have held mandatory anti-union meetings during which management made coercive statements. The investigation is the result of charges filed by the CWA which previously claimed that the tech giant made a free and fair election at the location impossible.

“Apple executives think the rules don’t apply to them,” the Communications Workers of America (CWA) said in a statement via Bloomberg. “Holding an illegal forced captive audience meeting is not only union-busting but an example of psychological warfare. We commend the NLRB for recognizing captive audience meetings for exactly what they are – a direct violation of labor rights.”

Now, Apple will have to settle the case or face the NLRB filing a complaint against it, The Verge reports. While the regulator can’t levy financial penalties, the iPhone maker could still be forced to put up signs and issue other communication informing workers of their legal rights. The Atlanta location was the first store in the United States to file for a union election in April 2022, with 70% of employees signing authorization cards.

But just a few days before the vote was scheduled to take place, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) said it was withdrawing its election request. The decision, the union explained, was due to Apple’s intimidation which made it impossible to have a fair contest. There were also concerns surrounding Covid safety measures. The vote was set for June 2, 2022.

At the time, a CWA representative released a statement via CNBC saying an overwhelming majority of the workers at the Cumberland Mall Store announced their intention to unionize and requested recognition from the company.“Since then, Apple conducted a systematic, sophisticated campaign to intimidate and interfere with their right to form a union,” the spokesperson said. That sort of behavior violates U.S. law and the principles and international human rights standards.

The world’s most valuable company has been facing a wave of unionization at its retail stores this year. Apple staff at a Maryland location voted to form a union in June with the International Association of Machinists, and their counterparts in Oklahoma City opted in to join the CWA in October. But organizers suffered a setback in St. Louis last month, where IAM withdrew its petition due to the company’s behavior, the Los Angeles Times says.

Then in October, Apple was accused of violating labor laws once more when the NLRB filed a complaint saying the company discriminated against workers trying to organize, and interrogated employees in New York City. Organizers have also claimed that the tech giant was withholding new benefits from unionized workers. However, Apple said it disagreed with the allegations.

Despite the setbacks, workers at several Apple locations across the U.S have been discussing unionization. And if the tech giant continues to interfere with their efforts, its risks alienating retail store staff and damaging its image as a company with humanistic values.