Illegal Apple union-busting is a recurring pattern – members of Congress

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has already supported claims of illegal Apple union-busting tactics, and now two members of Congress have said that this appears to be a recurring pattern.

Democratic representatives Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) and Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) have jointly written to the NLRB asking for a wider investigation into Apple’s response to the growing unionization movement within its retail stores…


A unionization movement among Apple Store workers has seen the Cupertino company accused of a variety of illegal union-busting measures. These range from mandatory attendance at anti-union meetings through creating a fake union and penalizing union members to firing union activists.

These actions have seen multiple charges that Apple has broken the labor laws designed to guarantee workers the right to form and join unions.

Experts have warned that while union-busting can work, it can have long-lasting negative consequences for companies that engage in it even where legal. Breaking the law can of course have a far greater impact on a company’s reputation.

Apple has responded by agreeing to a third-party audit to check whether or not it is complying with both labor laws and its own stated human rights policies.

Recurring pattern of illegal Apple union-busting

In the latest development, two members of Congress have said that it appears Apple’s actions are not isolated incidents at individual stores, but rather a recurring pattern of breaking the law.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II and Rep. Sylvia Garcia has written an open letter to the NLRB calling for a broader investigation.

Workers report being disciplined and fired for union activity, under the guise of tardiness. It is reported that one worker involved in the organizing campaign was punished for being an average of 1 minute late for their shift. Later the worker along with four other employees were fired for attendance related reasons, when prior to the start of the union drive, it was “uncommon for anyone to be terminated for violating attendance policy […]

[Workers also] report being interrogated about their support for the union and threatened to worsen working conditions if employees continued to organize. Both ULPs charge management with holding captive audience meetings.

Captive meetings, intimidation, and retaliation are all illegal. The NLRB also ruled earlier this year that companies cannot make severance payments conditional on giving up rights to sue an employer for breach of labor laws, another practice in which Apple is said to have engaged.

The pair note that the organization already found Apple guilty in two cases, but believe the practice is more widespread.

The NLRB already found Apple infringed upon worker rights earlier this year, and we are concerned about this recurring pattern. We respectfully request the NIRB to thoroughly investigate these serious allegations.

9to5Mac’s Take

So far, Apple has chosen to take an extremely hard line against the unionization movement. That is, of course, the company’s right. What it cannot do, however, is break the law.

There are specific laws designed to protect the rights of workers to organize, form, and join unions. A number of Apple’s actions seem to be in clear contravention of these laws, and in at least two cases the NLRB has laid formal charges against the company.

This letter increases pressure on Apple to revisit its stance on unionization by creating greater awareness of the issue, which can only further damage the reputation of the Cupertino company. Even if Apple wants to act only in its own self-interest, we continue to argue that its best interests are served by engaging positively with its retail staff.

Photo: Robert S. Donovan/CC3.0

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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