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Atlanta retail employees accuse Apple of union busting, possibly breaking labor laws

Last month, Apple Store employees in Atlanta began the process of unionizing; today those same employees are accusing the tech giant of union busting. The Communications Workers of America is accusing Apple of violating the National Labor Relations Act. The company has been reportedly holding captive audience meetings to counter an ongoing union drive at the Cumberland Mall store.

While the employees say they love Apple, they want an increase in wages, better benefits, and improved store health protocols. Cumberland is currently one of three Apple Store locations working on unionizing while more are in the process of organizing.

The company has yet to make a direct statement regarding unionizing; however, it has hired anti-union lawyers from Littler Mendelson for help. It has also started posting notes within retail stores highlighting Apple’s benefits as well as its diversity and inclusion commitments.

Unlawful according to the NLRB

According to The Verge, captive audience meetings are a tactic where bosses require employees to attend meetings with anti-union messaging. It is generally allowed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) until the 24-hour period before a union election.

However, a recent memo from NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo stated otherwise. Abruzzo noted that these meetings violate the National Labor Relations Act and that the NLRB will take aggressive action against the tactic. Per Abruzzo:

This license to coerce is an anomaly in labor law, inconsistent with the Act’s protection of employees’ free choice. It is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of employers’ speech rights.

This policy has shown relevance regarding Apple’s management practices at its retail stores. Employees start the day with a “daily download” meeting to be updated on what’s new within the company and store. Apple Store employees have been reaching out to The Verge, mentioning how management has increasingly incorporated topics like culture, benefits, and anti-union messaging into these meetings.

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