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Apple broke the law fighting Atlanta union, says NLRB

Hey Siri, is it illegal to pressure employees until they abandon organizing votes?

US labor law enforcers say they've found merit to allegations that Apple's response to unionization attempts in Atlanta violated the National Labor Relations Act.

Apple stands accused of holding employees as a captive audience, making intimidating statements and interrogating staff, all of which are violations of NLRA provisions intended to prevent coercion of employees.

If Apple and the Communication Workers of America can't come to an agreement, the National Labor Relations Board is prepared to issue a complaint, press secretary Kayla Blado told The Register.

A complaint "will result in a hearing with an NLRB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)," Blado told us, which could lead to Apple being forced to pay remedies to affected employees. In other words, Apple had better be sure it has a solid argument if it chooses to fight the settlement option.

Settle, schmettle

The case at issue involves Apple employees' unionization attempts at the Apple Store in Atlanta's Cumberland Mall, which began in April with those employees filing the first request for a union vote from an American Apple retail store.

By May, Cumberland Mall employees had withdrawn their request for an election because Apple's actions "made a free and fair election impossible," the Communications Workers of America (CWA) previously told Bloomberg

It was during the same period that the CWA filed a complaint with the NLRB on behalf of Cumberland workers alleging the same things that the Board now said are with enough merit to at least warrant further investigation. 

The accusations are similar to those Apple is facing from another ongoing NLRB case in New York, where employees attempting to unionize faced mandatory anti-union meetings and are also accusing Apple of coercing staff. The New York case has advanced to the hearing stage [PDF], with an NLRB ALJ previously set to hear the case on December 13, though a date change has been ordered. 

Two steps forward, one back

Apple employees in two locations - Towson, Maryland and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - both voted to unionize this year, while employees in St. Louis recently withdrew requests for an organizing vote. 

St. Louis employees also cited hostility and anti-union behavior from Apple when the vote was withdrawn, but have since taken a hard line, arguing that the union wouldn't benefit them in any way and that they don't want to be associated with it.

St. Louis staff petitioned the NLRB with a formal rejection of efforts by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) to organize their store, telling Bloomberg that they didn't believe the IAM could provide "anything complementary to Apple's culture and existing benefits."

While a setback for unionization efforts at Apple retail stores, iUnionization efforts have still been more successful than attempts to organize Amazon warehouses, where just one of five votes have succeeded, with Amazon also being accused of suppressing unionization attempts. ®

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