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Apple Illegally Busted Union Effort in Atlanta Store, Labor Officials Say

The anti-union tactics that Apple employed were so harsh, workers said, that the employees withdrew their union drive.

The Apple logo is seen outside a store in Shanghai, China, on September 20, 2019.

Federal labor prosecutors have determined that Apple employed illegal anti-union tactics while busting a union drive in an Atlanta store this year.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officials have found that the company illegally held mandatory meetings in which managers made coercive statements against the union, while management interrogated and coerced employees as they organized to unionize, as first reported by Bloomberg. Federal labor officials plan on issuing a complaint against the company if it doesn’t settle.

The union celebrated the NLRB finding as “huge news.”

“Apple executives think the rules don’t apply to them,” the union said in a statement. “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.”

Workers at the Cumberland Mall location in Atlanta withdrew their union drive in May due to the company’s union busting. “Apple’s repeated violations of the National Labor Relations Act have made a free and fair election impossible,” the Communications Workers of America (CWA), said at the time.

The Atlanta location was just one of a handful of Apple stores across the country that have waged a union campaign this year. So far, two stores have voted to unionize, one in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and the other in Towson, Maryland. Apple retail employees say that they face low pay and stressful working conditions, such as abusive customers and managers, while getting little support from corporate.

After withdrawing the campaign, workers launched a petition saying that the union busting campaign was “nothing short of traumatic for many of us,” and called for the company to stop its anti-union campaign at other stores. Workers said that, after they had filed for a union in April, management started turning their daily morning meetings into captive audience meetings. The company’s anti-union blitz was eye-opening for many employees who newly discovered Apple’s contempt for unions and unionizing employees.

Indeed, in a leaked memo that was circulated to store managers earlier this year, the company handed down anti-union talking points to use against employees, including apparent threats of losing opportunities for upward mobility or benefits like the ability to take time off. The company also announced earlier this year that it would be unrolling new benefits for its employees — benefits that would be withheld from what was then the only unionized store in the country.

Labor officials have found that Apple also illegally interrogated workers at its World Trade Center location in New York. The NLRB filed a complaint against the company in October, saying that the company interrogated and surveilled staff, held captive anti-union meetings and barred workers from putting pro-union fliers in the break room. The union effort there has stalled for now.

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