According to Vice, Apple has been training retail shop managers on how to convince employees off of unionizing. According to the allegation, Apple has distributed a paper with talking points such as “an outside union that is unfamiliar with Apple’s culture” and “most union contracts provide precedence based on seniority.” Store managers are also encouraged to “contact base” with employees about prospective union activities, according to the memo.
This comes at a time when numerous Apple retail outlets are organizing union drives – two have filed formal petitions with the National Labor Relations Board to hold union elections, and another is considering doing so. Apple has made it apparent that it will oppose these efforts: it hired anti-union attorneys, and at least one employee told The Verge that the corporation organized a captive audience conference to propagate anti-union talking points. However, it’s still interesting to see what kinds of arguments the firm use.
The memo, which is included in Vice’s investigation, claims that if store employees are represented by a union, it may be impossible for them to work together as a team, and that a union “would genuinely speak for” employees on job-related matters (emphasis original). It provides managers an example of Apple listening to retail employees’ opinions and making changes as a result, and then warns that a union may “make things more complicated and inflexible.” Leaders “wouldn’t have the ability to respond in the moment or to accommodate each person’s individual requirements,” according to the memo.
There are also warnings about “a rigorous union contract that must be adhered to at all times,” which makes it impossible for employees to take advantage of unexpected chances or get merit-based rewards. What if a union contract mandated that employees only accomplish what their job description specifies?
Managers at select Apple Stores, according to Vice, have been passing on the company’s message at weekly meetings.
If you recognize some of those bullet points, it’s because they’re identical to those used by other businesses. Amazon reportedly hosted captive audience seminars in the run-up to its own union elections, when workers were persuaded that union negotiators’ goals might not align with their own. When compared to employees who have a direct line of communication with their supervisors, the company’s CEO described unions as “slower and more bureaucratic.”
It’s also worth noting that even Apple’s talking points concede that the alleged disadvantages aren’t intrinsic to unions – contracts don’t have to impose strict working conditions or grant seniority priority. Despite Apple’s assertions that “much of our interactions are placed in the hands of a third party,” the organizers of the union efforts at Apple stores are Apple workers.