The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has said it will challenge Apple’s use of so-called captive audience meetings to discourage unionization, a long-standing practice among employers. We’ve gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other media outlets.
Meetings Were at Atlanta Store
The NLRB said Apple violated federal law at an Atlanta store in response to union efforts. The board’s regional director for Atlanta reportedly found merit to allegations of captive audience meetings, coercive statements and interrogation. The regional director will issue a formal complaint if Apple doesn’t settle. Apple has previously denied wrongdoing in a complaint with similar allegations about an Apple store in New York City.
If the NLRB succeeds in arguing against captive audience meetings in this case, it would be a change in precedent, as the meetings have previously not been considered a violation of law.
NLRB General Counsel Opposes Captive Audience Meetings
For more than 70 years, employers have had the right to convene captive audience meetings with employees about their statutory labor rights, including the right to refrain from forming unions. On April 7, NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo announced in a memo that she will ask the NLRB to find such mandatory meetings unlawful.
Communications Workers of America’s Statement
“Holding an illegal forced captive audience meeting is not only union-busting, but an example of psychological warfare,” said Tom Smith, the Communications Workers of America’s organizing director, in a statement. “We commend the NLRB for recognizing captive audience meetings for exactly what they are: a direct violation of labor rights.”
Organizing Efforts at Apple
On Oct. 14, an Apple store in Oklahoma City became the second store at the company nationwide to vote to unionize. The first Apple store in the U.S. to unionize is near Baltimore, the NLRB noted June 18. Apple workers at other stores have tried to unionize, including at locations in Atlanta and New York City. The Atlanta workers in May withdrew a petition to vote on unionization but might seek to hold a vote in the future.
Unionization Drive at a St. Louis Store Withdrawn
A majority of employees at a St. Louis Apple store—66 out of 83 workers—signed a letter to withdraw the effort to unionize the outlet. “Some no longer felt the union would provide anything complimentary to Apple’s culture and existing benefits, while others felt they had been misled when signing their cards initially,” the letter said. The letter added that the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) rushed a vote, “disregarded the wishes of our organizing employees,” and “preemptively pulled their petition with the NLRB and released a statement claiming hostility toward employees from Apple’s management had led to this decision. The reality is much simpler: the majority of employees at this Apple store do not wish to work with the IAM.”
IAM represented the first Apple store in the U.S. to organize.