(Bloomberg) — The labor group that tried to organize Apple employees at an Atlanta store is withdrawing its election request, citing claims the company has engaged in an illegal union-busting tactic.
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The Communications Workers Association of America said it took the step “because Apple’s repeated violations of the National Labor Relations Act make free and fair elections impossible,” according to an emailed statement on Friday. The labor group also cited Covid-19 infections among store employees at the city’s Cumberland Mall, saying it “raises concerns about the ability of eligible employees to vote and the safety of voting in person.”
“Apple conducted a systematic, sophisticated campaign to intimidate them and interfere with their right to unionize,” the CWA said. Under NLRB rules, unions opting out of elections usually mean the votes are cancelled, and unions must wait at least six months before petitioning again to represent the same group of workers.
The news represents a setback for an initial effort by several unions in the U.S. to organize Apple retail stores. In addition to the push in Georgia, workers at stores in New York, Maryland and Kentucky have also announced events. CWA – the group that won elections this year for Verizon Communications Inc. retail employees, Activision Blizzard Inc. quality assurance testers and subcontracted Google Fiber employees – has said it has received input from numerous Apple employees across the country.
When asked about the move, Apple said it “is fortunate to have fantastic retail team members and we take what they bring to Apple very seriously.”
“We are pleased to offer very generous compensation and benefits to our full-time and part-time employees, including health care, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, annual stock grants and many other benefits,” Cupertino, CA The city-headquartered company said.
In a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board last week, the CWA accused Apple of violating federal labor law by forcing workers in Atlanta and New York City to attend “captive audience” meetings about unions.
Existing precedent allows companies to hold such meetings, but Jennifer Abruzzo, the current general counsel for the Labor Commission, argues that they are inherently mandatory and illegal. She is pursuing a case that could change the precedent.
Abruzzo, a former lawyer for the CWA, is also trying to revive an old principle that employers must negotiate with labor groups if they have no “good faith suspicion” that most employees support the union.
In a statement Friday, the CWA said it had the support of an “overwhelming majority” of workers at the Atlanta store when it called for elections in April.
In the weeks since employees announced their organizing efforts, Apple has taken steps to raise wages and warned of the possible downsides of unionization. In a recent video message, Apple retail chief Deirdre O’Brien told employees: “Our relationship is built on openness, collaboration and direct engagement.” She said she was concerned about “putting another organization in the middle of our relationship.” what does it mean”.
On Wednesday, the company told employees it would raise the minimum wage for retail workers to $22.
Atlanta workers were scheduled to vote June 2 to June 4 in what would be the first NLRB election at the Apple Store. Major unions are sometimes wary of such elections because federal law leaves room for companies to campaign aggressively against organizing. But the union’s stunning victories in recent months at one Amazon.com warehouse and dozens of Starbucks Corp. cafes across the country have emboldened workers and organizers elsewhere.
A spokesman for the CWA declined to elaborate on next steps for its Atlanta campaign.
“We are committed to our work and support each other,” Atlanta employee Derek Bowles said in a statement shared by the union. “We’re on this journey together. We want to create a truly democratic coalition that aligns with Apple’s public values.”
(Updated with Apple’s response in the fifth paragraph.)
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