The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continues to object to multiple aspects of Apple’s conduct, with the board saying Monday it had determined the company’s policies could interfere with workers’ rights to class action.
It’s important to note that while it can order companies to change their policies, the NLRB has no authority to impose damages if they fail to comply. However, should Apple’s response prove unsatisfactory, this ruling will likely lead to a complaint and possibly a federal case against the company, especially given that the NLRB has previously ruled against Apple.
As reported by Bloomberg, the NLRB attorney’s office has found that “various work rules, handbook rules, and confidentiality rules” that Apple imposes on its employees “tend to hinder, deter, or coerce” them from exercising their employment rights. In more blunt terms, this has been described as allegations of ‘union abuse’.
In addition, the NLRB “found grounds for an indictment alleging statements and conduct by Apple — including high-level executives — that also violated the National Labor Relations Act,” said agency spokesperson Kayla Blado.
Former employees claim they were forbidden to discuss wages, which is a protected right. (Apple finally relaxed this policy in November 2021.) It is also alleged that threats to punish speakers violated labor laws.
Apple’s relationship with employees has come under scrutiny in recent years. Last year saw a US Apple Store successfully unite for the first time in the company’s history, and scores of others tried to follow suit. These attempts had mixed results and much bitterness.
Faced with an increasing interest in the benefits of collective bargaining, Apple has been reported to have sent a list of anti-union points to its store managers. One store withdrew its application in November citing “anti-union practices and increasing hostility towards employees.” But most famous was a store in Cumberland, Atlanta, which retracted an attempted unionization days before the vote, citing “a systematic, sophisticated campaign to [workers] and interfere with their right to form a union.” This resulted in a ruling against the company from the NLRB, which concluded that Apple had violated federal law by questioning and coercing employees.