Apple union-busting was ‘traumatic,’ say workers – even included immigration assistance threat

Apple union-busting was ‘traumatic,’ say workers – even included immigration assistance threat

July 29, 2022 0 By Ben Lovejoy

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Apple union-busting techniques have been described as “traumatic” by employees in the first Apple Store to unionize, Towson, Maryland.

They accuse Apple of failing to live up to its own human rights policy, and say that various threats were made to workers intending to join the union – including one who was told that the immigration assistance offered by the company could be withdrawn …

The workers have created a petition, calling on the Apple board to ensure that staff in other stores are not subjected to the same tactics.

We knew Apple had strong human rights policies, especially around workers’ rights to organize […]

Unfortunately for us, these policies were not followed. What we received in return for reaching out to our CEO was nothing short of a systematic and coordinated campaign designed to inflict substantial collective pressure on us as a workforce.  To be clear, this was nothing short of traumatic for many of us.  We are still dealing with the emotional effects of this campaign as guided by Littler Mendelson.

Today, we are reaching out to you, our Apple Board of Directors, in the hopes that you will be able to take action to make sure no other Apple employees needlessly go through what we did […]

The right to union representation is guaranteed by the U.S. government; it is a right that Apple recognizes in its Human Rights Policy and demands its suppliers respect in their Supplier Code of Conduct. Do not punish us for exercising these rights. These anti-union campaigns have real world consequences on your employees’ health.

The reference to Littler Mendelson is a legal firm specializing in union-busting, and which Apple asked to assist its efforts to deter staff from unionizing. This was the same company hired by Starbucks.

Wired spoke to some of the staff involved, who painted a picture of Apple using chilling tactics, with likely long-term consequences.

Workers say that some managers who were fed anti-union talking points to deliver during the campaign continue to hold a bias against union supporters, complaining when they miss work and painting them as lazy. Particularly in smaller workplaces such as Apple stores, fractured relationships are a common casualty of harsh anti-union campaigns.

Apple employees felt especially blindsided by the ferociousness of the campaign, given the company’s stated commitment to progressive values and inclusivity […]

“When you hire Littler Mendelson, it’s an indication that you’re prepared to do whatever is necessary to defeat the union campaign,” says Logan. “That you’re prepared to play hardball” […]

According to Rhodes, managers emphasized how grateful employees should be for the pay and benefits they receive from Apple, and suggested that they could lose them if the union won. She says the fearmongering became targeted; one employee was told his immigration assistance could be taken away if the union won.

This echoes earlier comments made by employment experts, who said union-busting can be a very risky thing to do. We’ve urged Apple to instead take a positive and proactive approach.

There were humorous moments.

They attempted to paint the union as racist, bringing up its history of excluding minorities when it was founded, “without any of the actual historical context of it being the 1880s in Georgia,” notes Gallagher. “Somebody made the point that the union’s run by rich white men,” says Graham DeYoung, a 15-year Apple employee and organizing committee member at the Towson store. “I said, ‘Hey, look at the Apple board of directors.’”

The full piece is worth reading.

Photo: Headway/Unsplash

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About the Author



Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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