Apple appears to have taken its most aggressive step yet to warn its retail employees against unionizing. According to Bloomberg, the company recently held meetings at all of its roughly 270 stores across the United States meant to “discuss the risks of unionization.” The tone of the gatherings was “consistent” across Apple’s retail footprint. Managers reportedly opened with a prepared statement from corporate leadership before turning to the state of union negotiations in Towson, Maryland, the location of the company’s first unionized store in the US.
According to Bloomberg, Apple management cast the election at Towson, and the slow progress workers at the store have made toward securing a collective bargaining agreement “as a bit of a cautionary tale.” Managers leaned on talking points that criticized union dues and the unionization process, including the collection of authorization cards. “While Apple didn’t say it, the underlying message to the company’s tens of thousands of retail employees: if your store unionizes, you may be at a disadvantage,” according to Bloomberg.
Apple did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union that represents workers at the company’s Townson Town Center location in Maryland, said it would share a statement on Monday.
Bloomberg suggests some employees saw the meetings as a “scare tactic” and an attempt to “pour cold water on the idea” of unionization. Last May, Apple Store employees in Atlanta accused the company of subjecting them to anti-union captive audience meetings. For decades, companies were allowed to hold such gatherings until 24 hours before a union election begins. In 2022, however, National Labor Relations Board general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo claimed captive audience meetings were a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
“Forcing employees to listen to such employer speech under threat of discipline — directly leveraging the employees’ dependence on their jobs — plainly chills employees’ protected right to refrain from listening to this speech,” Abruzzo wrote last April. At the end of the year, the agency found had Apple violated federal law with its efforts to discourage workers at its Cumberland Mall store in Atlanta from unionizing.