Apple Inc. tried to prevent union-organizing efforts in Ohio by creating a company-controlled labor group for employees to join instead, the Communications Workers of America alleged in a complaint.
In a filing Friday with the US National Labor Relations Board, the CWA accused the tech company of “soliciting employees to join an employer-created / employer-dominated labor organization as a means of stifling union activities.”
Federal labor law restricts companies from setting up pseudo-union organizations that are controlled by management, a tactic commonly used by companies in the early 20th century to sap support for independent union organizing.
The CWA’s complaint, which involves Apple’s Easton Town Center store in Columbus, Ohio, also accuses Apple of holding mandatory anti-union meetings in which management falsely claimed the company would be legally barred from negotiating on certain topics if workers unionized. Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Creating a work group controlled by management is undemocratic and a clear attempt at union-busting,” CWA’s secretary-treasurer, Sara Steffens, said in an emailed statement. “If management actually cared about workers having a voice on the job, they would direct them to Apple Retail Union/CWA which is run by workers, not bosses.”
Apple, the world’s most valuable company, has faced an unprecedented wave of organizing at its retail stores this year. Staff at a Maryland location voted in June to unionize with the International Association of Machinists, and their counterparts in Oklahoma City opted in October to join the CWA. Workers at dozens more of Apple’s roughly 270 US stores have been discussing unionization, according to employees.
Still, organizers have suffered setbacks as well. In St. Louis, the IAM withdrew a unionization petition the week after filing it. And in Atlanta, the CWA scrapped its bid for a vote the week before a planned election.
The NLRB general counsel’s office this month determined that Apple violated US labor law in Atlanta, and in September issued a complaint against the company in New York, accusing Apple of interrogating staff at a World Trade Center store and discriminating against union supporters in enforcing a no-soliciting policy. Following that complaint, the iPhone maker said that it disagreed with the allegations.
In Columbus, Apple circulated fliers to workers promoting what it called “a dedicated working group that can be used as a formal means for employees and leaders to provide feedback on both local and retail organization-wide initiatives, policies and practices,” according to the union. That organization would have 10 members, with roles like co-chair or secretary, the union said.