Apple has coached store managers to try to talk workers out of unions, according to vice† The report says the company circulated a document full of topics of discussion such as “an outside union that Apple doesn’t know” or its culture, or “most union contracts prefer seniority based on seniority.” The document also encourages store managers to contact employees about potential union activities.
This comes at a time when there has been industrial action in several Apple stores – two have officially petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to hold union elections, and another wants to do so. It was pretty clear that Apple would try to combat these efforts; the company has hired anti-union lawyers, and at least one employee has told: The edge that the company held a public meeting to spread anti-union discussions. However, it is still interesting to look at the types of arguments the company uses.
The document, that is embedded in vicethe reportsays it may not be possible for store associates to work together as a team if a union represents them, saying a union “would really speak foremployees on work-related matters (emphasis original). It gives managers an example to cite as a time when Apple listened to store associates’ feedback and made changes based on it, then warns that a union “could make things more complex and rigid.” Leaders, according to the document, “wouldn’t have the flexibility to act in the moment or meet each person’s unique needs.”
There are also points that warn of “a rigid union contract that must be adhered to at all times,” making it difficult for employees to seize unusual opportunities or receive merit-based benefits. What if a union contract meant that employees could only do exactly what their job description says, it asks.
According to viceexecutives at some Apple Stores have relayed the company’s message at weekly meetings.
If some of those points look familiar to you, it’s probably because they’re similar to those used by other companies. In the run-up to its own union elections, Amazon reportedly held public rallies where workers were told that union negotiators’ interests might not align with theirs. The company’s CEO called unions “slower and more bureaucratic” compared to workers who have direct ties to their managers.
It’s also worth noting that even Apple’s talking points acknowledge that the alleged drawbacks are not inherent in unions – contracts are not to have to enforce rigid working conditions, or to favor seniority. And while there are well-established unions involved in the Apple store strikes, the organizers themselves are Apple employees, despite the company’s claims that “many of our interactions are put in the hands of a third party.”