In an intensifying fight with store workers in Atlanta who have filed for union elections, Apple is consulting with anti-union lawyers from Littler Mendelson. Despite the fact that the firm has not publicly announced its position on Apple Store unions, the decision sends a clear message that it intends to discourage worker organizing for improved wages and working conditions.
Starbucks is presently represented by Littler in its fight against employee organization. This previously assisted McDonald’s in avoiding culpability in a 2014 complaint accusing the firm of breaking labor rules by retaliating against workers who engaged in the Fight for $15 movement as a co-employer.
“I believed unions were a wonderful thing from the beginning,” said one current retail employee who requested to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the company. “In the store, pay is quite unequal—some people in lower-paying roles make more than people who have worked in the same position for years.” They portray themselves as a corporation that welcomes comments, yet no one actually does anything about it. Employees will be under more pressure to act if their unions support them.”
Apple employees at Atlanta’s Cumberland Mall registered for union elections last week. Employees joined the American Communications Workers Union (ACW). The announcement ignited a frenzy of planning at Apple Stores across the country.
“I believe they were in a panic.”
“By keeping well-known union-busting firm Littler Mendelson on board, Apple’s management is demonstrating that they intend to try to prevent their employees from exercising their right to join a union by following the same guidelines as other large corporations,” CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens said. “It didn’t sit well with the employees at Starbucks, the other Littler clients, and it didn’t sit well with the employees at Apple.”
Littler is forthright about his strategies for assisting businesses in avoiding unionization. The company instructs companies on what they can and cannot do to prevent workers from organizing in a handbook obtained by The Verge, including telling employees to vote “no” and banning the distribution of pro-union literature if it creates a “garbage problem” when flyers are not properly disposed of.
Companies can prevent the formation of unions during working hours, according to the rulebook. “Even though the [National Labor Relations] Council determines that working time excludes meal and rest periods, there is no requirement to specify this definition in written policy as long as the word working time is utilized,” it reads.
According to a worker at an Apple shop in New York, the firm hosted an audience meeting, which is a popular strategy for spreading anti-union sentiments during working hours. “A lot of disinformation has been published in an attempt to scare the populace,” said the worker, who did not want to be identified for the sake of their job’s safety. “I believe they were in a panic.”
The strike comes after two trying years for retail workers, who have dealt with the COVID-19 outbreak as well as a mental health crisis exacerbated by a hard workload.
Digging In More Details
Littler also assists businesses in detecting union activity. “A significant increase in the number of employee group chats and a tendency for discussions to quickly stop when a supervisor approaches may suggest that a union push is underway,” according to the handbook’s section on “recognizing subtle signals of union activity.” “Each job site has one or more employees who are respected and trusted by their coworkers,” he continued. When that dynamic shifts and a new leader develops, he or she may become the company’s chief union manager. The new leader might be the person who made the first contact with the union, or someone who the union placed in the facility to mobilize workers.”
Apple has remained tight-lipped about its business dealings with Littler. “We are lucky to have such exceptional members of the retail team, and we value all they bring to Apple,” Apple spokesman Nick Leahy said in a statement. We are glad to provide excellent salary and benefits to both full-time and part-time employees, including health insurance, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, annual stock grants, and many other perks.”