Deirdre O’Brien, the trillion-dollar company’s vice president of people and retail, issued a warning to 58,000 retail personnel in a video that was leaked to The Verge as a small number of Apple retail outlets start the unionization process. O’Brien began her speech by adding, “I want to start off by emphasizing that it is your right to join a union, and it’s equally your right not to join a union. Since April, Apple stores in New York, Maryland, and Atlanta have made their unionization intentions known. Earlier today, the Louisville, Kentucky, Apple store at Oxmoor Center Mall made its unionization campaign announcement.
Successful petitions to hold union elections have been made by employees at these stores in Towson, Maryland, and Atlanta, Georgia. Accordingly, even if Apple declines to voluntarily authorize their union, they can still obtain official recognition by receiving more than 50% of the votes in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Voting is anticipated to start on June 2 at the Cumberland Mall in Atlanta, where it is most probable that this will be the first location.
The likelihood of the store’s employees becoming a legal union appears good because more than 70% of them supported the election request. But not if the omnipresent corporate titan that dwells in our wallets can put a stop to it. The same law firm that is supporting Starbucks’ anti-union campaign, Littler Mendelson, also assisting Apple, which has been accused of using unlawful union-busting methods. A document with anti-union talking lines that was being distributed among managers at various Apple stores was leaked to Motherboard last week.
According to the letter, joining a union would limit employees’ possibilities for professional progress, put Apple’s culture at risk by bringing in an outsider, and limit their capacity to voice their opinions. O’Brien reiterated these ideas to the shop personnel in a video that, according to Motherboard, is watermarked, perhaps so that Apple can track down any employee who leaks it.
Because the union would bring its own legally required guidelines, O’Brien expressed concern that they would dictate how we resolve conflicts. It can be more difficult for us to respond to your concerns quickly. O’Brien contends that because Apple has a stronger commitment to its employees than a union, the connection between Apple and its employees would deteriorate if a union were to represent them.
We have a partnership that is built on open communication and direct interaction, but O’Brien felt that this connection may fundamentally change if a store were to be covered by a union under a CBA. And I’m concerned about the implications of having another group interfere with our connection. These sentiments, however, are not very strong; if Apple wanted to change its policy, it would present it to the union. The union’s membership, the employees, may then decide how to react. Decisions aren’t made independently of members by unions like the Communications Workers of America, which represents the staff at the Atlanta shop at the Cumberland Mall. Instead, they assist and represent the employees while they negotiate for improved working conditions.