Apple has coached retail store managers on how to try to dissuade employees from unionizing Vice. According to the report, the company sent out a document full of talking points like “an outside union Apple doesn’t know about” or its culture or “most prefer union contracts based on seniority.” The document also encourages store managers to contact employees about potential union activity.
This comes at a time when there are union campaigns at several Apple retail locations — two have filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board to hold union elections and another plans to do so. It was pretty clear that Apple would try to combat this effort; The company hired anti-union lawyers and at least one worker has spoken out The edge that the company held a company meeting to circulate anti-union issues. Still, it’s interesting to take a close look at what kind of arguments the company uses.
The document that is embedded in Vice‘s report says it may not be possible for store employees to work together as a team when a union represents them, saying a union “would actually speak to the” Employees on work-related issues (emphasis in original). It gives managers an example of a time when Apple listened to retail employee feedback and made changes based on it, then warns that a union “could make things more complex and rigid.” Leaders, according to the document, “would not have the flexibility to act in the moment or to cater to each person’s unique needs.”
There are also points warning of “a rigid union contract that must be upheld at all times” that makes it difficult for employees to seize unusual opportunities or receive performance-related benefits. What if a union contract stipulated that employees could only do exactly what their job description dictated, she asks.
Corresponding ViceManagers of some Apple Stores have relayed the company’s message during weekly meetings.
If some of these points sound familiar to you, it’s probably because they are similar to those used by other companies. In the run-up to its own union elections, Amazon reportedly held meetings with captive audiences at which workers were told that the interests of union negotiators might not align with theirs. The company’s CEO described unions as “slower and more bureaucratic” compared to employees who have a direct link to their managers.
It’s also worth noting that even Apple’s talking points acknowledge that the perceived disadvantages aren’t inherent in unions — contracts aren’t to have enforce rigid working conditions or prioritize seniority. And although mainstream unions are involved in union campaigns at Apple Stores, the organizers are Apple employees themselves, despite the company’s claims of “putting many of our interactions in the hands of third parties.”