The move follows an aggressive anti-union video by retail chief Deirdre O’Brien. The video, lasting over six minutes, was almost entirely focused on anti-union messaging …
There has been growing evidence of dissatisfaction among Apple Store workers over a number of issues, most notably stagnating pay in the face of rapidly rising inflation. The issue has seen a succession of Apple retail stores take steps toward forming or joining unions.
We first learned of retail staff plans to unionize back in February, when groups at two stores were reportedly preparing paperwork to file with the National Labor Relations Board, with about six more locations at earlier stages of planning.
We saw a formal start to the process at Apple’s flagship Grand Central Terminal store in New York, with a number of goals for a better deal for staff. This was followed by similar moves in Atlanta and Maryland.
Apple responded by distributing anti-union talking points to managers, in which it was suggested – among other things – that unionizing could result in fewer opportunities for promotion.
As we noted yesterday, a fourth Apple Store has begun the unionization process – but Apple still seems to believe it can stop the movement in its tracks.
Store workers have been shown a video by O’Brien in which she opens by saying that employees have the right to join a union, then spends six minutes arguing that this would be a bad idea.
Vice obtained an audio recording of the video, in which Apple’s retail head repeatedly tells employees about her “worries” if they join a union.
I’m worried about what it would mean to put another organization in the middle of our relationship, an organization that does not have a deep understanding of Apple or our business,” O’Brien continued. “And most importantly, one that I do not believe shares our commitment to you […]
I worry that, because the union would bring its own legally mandated rules that would determine how we work through issues, it could make it harder for us to act swiftly to address things that you raise.
Retail workers have described the video as “threatening” and “stomach-turning.”
Apple Store pay increasing
The Cupertino company is now taking a “carrot and stick” approach to its anti-union efforts. Having applied the stick, in an unsubtle claim that employees would be worse off when joining forces in a union, Apple is now offering a carrot in the form of pay raises.
The WSJ says a memo was sent to hourly employees yesterday.
The iPhone maker on Wednesday told employees in an email that the company is increasing its overall compensation budget. Starting pay for hourly workers in the U.S. will rise to $22 an hour, or higher based upon the market, a 45% increase from 2018. Starting salaries in the U.S. are also expected to increase.
“Supporting and retaining the best team members in the world enables us to deliver the best, most innovative, products and services for our customers,” an Apple spokesman said in a statement. “This year as part of our annual performance review process, we’re increasing our overall compensation budget.”
Some store and AppleCare hourly-paid workers have been told that their annual reviews would be brought forward by several months, in order to allow pay raises to take effect earlier. Increases are set to take effect from early July.
Video likely to lead to further union-busting claim
Two union-busting complaints have already been filed against Apple, alleging that the company has violated multiple federal laws.
One of these complaints relates to what are known as “captive-audience meetings.” The term refers to meetings that staff are required to attend as part of their duties, such as morning briefing meetings. It’s illegal for a company to use mandatory-attendance meetings to discourage unionization.
More generally, it is illegal under the National Labor Relations Act for a company to interfere with the formation or organization of a union. It seems likely that the latest video will lead to a further complaint being made against the company.
We’ve previously suggested that Apple adopt a cooperative approach to unionization moves, rather than a confrontational one. That would continue to be the company’s best course of action, from both a staff morale and PR perspective.
While a pay raise looks set to address the biggest concern of retail staff, it’s still disappointing to see that Apple is at the very least brushing up against federal law in the aggressiveness of its fight against unionization. Staff reactions to O’Brien’s video strongly suggest that it may have done more harm than good.
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