The National Labor Relations Board’s Atlanta regional director has concluded that Apple’s anti-union tactics deployed in the Atlanta store broke the law. The company’s actions led to a planned unionization bid being abandoned after what was described as “intense union-busting” by Apple.
The next stage in the National Labor Relations Board investigation will be for a panel of NLRB judges to rule on the matter…
While New York City Apple Store employees were the first to begin the unionization process, it was the Atlanta store which was the first to file for a union election, back in April.
By May, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) had filed a charge against Apple, accusing it of “unfair labor practices” – the legal term for violations of the National Labor Relations Act, which prohibits companies from interfering with the formation or organization of a union. Apple was said to have held what are known as “captive meetings,” where bosses require employees to attend meetings with anti-union messaging.
By the end of the month, things had worsened. The election bid was abandoned after the union accused Apple of conducting “a systematic, sophisticated campaign to intimidate” workers.
Apple Together subsequently said that this was not the end of the unionization process at the store, and that the vote had merely been postponed, not permanently dropped.
Apple anti-union tactics said to be illegal
Union activists within the company have often said that many of the Apple anti-union tactics employed in Atlanta and elsewhere broke the law. Bloomberg reports that this view has now been endorsed by an NLRB director.
US labor board prosecutors have determined that Apple Inc. violated federal law by interrogating and coercing employees in Atlanta, the latest legal salvo over the company’s response to organizing efforts.
The National Labor Relations Board’s Atlanta regional director also concluded that Apple held mandatory anti-union meetings during which management made coercive statements and will issue a complaint if the company doesn’t settle, the agency’s press secretary, Kayla Blado, said.
AppleTogether is also planning a class action lawsuit against the company, again alleging illegal union-busting.
The law and the legal process
In the US, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) gives employees the right to form unions, and makes it illegal for employers to use tactics intended to sabotage these actions. We recently outlined the long list of things which companies are not allowed to do. Apple has been accused of doing many of the things on this list.
The first stage in formal NLRB action is for a prosecutor to determine whether a complaint has legal merit. In this case, the Atlanta director has found that it does.
Next, a panel of NLRB judges will decide whether they support that finding. If they do, then the case can proceed to federal court – although Apple would have the right to appeal that decision. If Apple is found guilty, then it can be required to change its policies, although it cannot be fined.
As we said recently, it doesn’t matter much whether you view unions as a good or bad thing: This battle between Apple and some of its own employees is only going to grow.
Apple risks not only alienating retail store staff – the public face of the company – but also damaging its brand image as a company with humanistic values. Being prosecuted for illegally preventing its staff from joining unions is really not a good look!
We continue to urge Apple to engage with staff, treating the movement as an opportunity rather than a threat.
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