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Apple Accused Of Targeting Pro-Union Employees After Company Fires 5 In Missouri

KEY POINTS

  • Apple allegedly fired one employee for “exercising” the right to vote for unionization
  • One employee said Apple “crushed the will” to unionize in the Kansas City store
  • Apple has been accused of launching a “coordinated, national union-busting campaign”

A labor organization has accused Apple of firing employees in retaliation for their organizing efforts, calling the termination of workers “unlawful.” The Communications Workers of America (CWA) has filed two Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) complaints against the tech giant.

“The charges allege that Apple illegally fired five workers at the company’s Country Club Plaza store in Kansas City and that some of the fired workers were forced to sign a ‘Release of All Claims’ in exchange for a meager severance package,” the CWA said in a statement Tuesday.

A Release of Claims is a written contract wherein “one or more parties agree to give up legal causes of action against the other party in exchange for adequate consideration,” which may be offered in the form of severance in terms of employment, according to Thomson Reuters Practical Law.

Five pro-union workers were terminated in Kansas City, Missouri, while another staffer in Texas was disciplined for supporting the union, the CWA alleged. It also accused Apple of questioning union organizers and promising better working conditions to those who don’t support the labor organization. People who wanted to unionize were allegedly threatened with worse working conditions, the CWA said.

“Apple management said I was fired for a typo in my timesheet that I had documented and tried to correct. Yet, it is clear the real reason I was fired was for exercising my right to organize and win a protected voice on the job,” D’lite Xiong, a former Apple retail worker in Kansas City, was quoted as saying.

Since Apple retail workers started organizing about a year ago, the iPhone maker has allegedly “chosen the low road” and hired “union busting-firm” Littler Mendelson to launch a “coordinated, national union-busting campaign.”

Gemma Wyatt, one of the fired pro-union employees who worked in Apple’s Kansas City store for seven years, told The Washington Post that she was first put on a disciplinary notice for being late by an average of one minute, three times in a month during her shift. She was then fired in early February after two more attendance-related issues.

“They absolutely succeeded in crushing the will to organize at our store,” Wyatt told the outlet.

The CWA said it was uncommon for employees at the store to lose their jobs over attendance-related violations.

Union members told The Post that Apple had been conducting meetings with workers to discuss unionization. Managers allegedly told employees that organizing would “disrupt” the relationship between the company and workers.

At the Memorial City store in Texas, Apple allegedly interrogated employees individually, asking about their thoughts about unionizing and promising improved working conditions for anti-union workers.

In its filings with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the union accused Apple of “unlawfully” firing employees “because of their protected concerted activities and their support and affiliation with CWA.” One filing was made on behalf of affected employees in Kansas City, while another was for an employee in Houston, The Verge reported.

This is not the first time Apple has faced unfair labor-related complaints. In December, the company was found to have illegally interrogated and coerced employees during a union drive at one of its Atlanta retail stores, according to a Bloomberg report.

This was following a complaint from the CWA, which alleged Apple’s anti-union actions at the Atlanta store “made a free and fair election impossible.” The store, located in Cumberland Mall, was the first Apple retail location to file for a union election in April last year.

Days before the scheduled voting, workers withdrew their request to vote for unionization, citing alleged intimidation from the tech giant.

About two months later, employees at another Apple store in Baltimore, Maryland, voted to unionize – 65 employees were in favor of unionizing and 33 voted against it. A technical specialist for the Towson store told The New York Times at the time that she hoped a union would help improve working conditions and compensation for Apple workers.

The Maryland store was the first unionized center in the United States. Some Apple retail employees and union members outside the U.S., such as in France, Germany and Italy, have made bargaining agreements with the company over the years.

In October, staff at the Apple Penn Square store in Oklahoma City voted to join the CWA, scoring another victory in favor of unionizing efforts.

In photo: an employee arranges Apple iPhones as customer shop at the Apple Store on 5th Avenue shortly after new products went on sale in Manhattan, in New York City, New York, U.S., March 18, 2022.
Reuters / Mike Segar