Apple’s union busting tactics in Atlanta were illegal, US officials say

(Bloomberg) – U.S. Labor Board prosecutors have determined that Apple Inc. violated federal law by interrogating and forcing employees in Atlanta, the latest legal salvo regarding the company’s response to efforts of organization.

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The National Labor Relations Board’s Atlanta regional director also concluded that Apple held mandatory union-busting meetings in which management made coercive statements and would file a lawsuit if the company did not work things out, said Monday. the agency’s press secretary, Kayla Blado.

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Communications Workers of America called for a union election at the Atlanta store earlier this year, but in May withdrew their petition the week before the scheduled vote, citing alleged misconduct on the part of the company.

“Apple executives believe the rules don’t apply to them,” the group said in a statement Monday. “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. »

Apple, the world’s most valuable company, has faced an unprecedented wave of unionization at its retail stores this year. Staff at a Maryland site voted in June to unionize with the International Association of Machinists, and their counterparts in Oklahoma City voted in October to join the CWA.

Organizers suffered a setback last month in St. Louis, where the IAM withdrew a union petition the week after filing it, blaming corporate behavior. Some local employees later complained about the process, saying they felt the election was rushed. But workers at dozens more of the roughly 270 Apple stores in the United States have been discussing unionization, employees say.

An NLRB regional manager in New York filed a lawsuit against Apple in September, accusing the company of interviewing staff at a World Trade Center store and discriminating against union supporters by enforcing a no-solicitation policy. Apple said following that complaint that it disagreed with the allegations.

While the NLRB has previously argued that companies can require employees to attend union-busting meetings, the agency’s current general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, views such “captive audience” gatherings as inherently coercive and illegal. . His office is pursuing cases that could change precedent, including at Amazon.com Inc. and Starbucks Corp., both of which have denied wrongdoing.

Complaints made by NLRB regional directors are reviewed by agency judges, whose decisions can be appealed to board members in Washington, and from there can go to federal court. The agency can require remedies, such as posting notices and rescinding policies or penalties, but it does not have the power to impose punitive damages on companies.

–With help from Mark Gurman.

(Updates with CWA’s statement in fifth paragraph.)

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