The National Labor Relations Board continues to take issue with multiple aspects of Apple’s conduct, with the board Monday saying it had determined that the company’s policies and actions, including an email sent by CEO Tim Cook about leaks, may interfere with employees’ rights.
As reported by Bloomberg, the NLRB general counsel’s office has found that “various work rules, handbook rules, and confidentiality rules” that Apple imposes on its employees “tend to interfere with, restrain or coerce” them from exercising their labor rights. In blunter terms, this has been described as allegations of “union-busting.”
The NLRB has “found merit to a charge alleging statements and conduct by Apple–including high-level executives–also violated the National Labor Relations Act,” according to agency spokesperson Kayla Blado. The investigation stemmed from a charge by former employees Ashley Gjovik and Cher Scarlett that Apple’s rules “prohibit employees from discussing wages, hours, or other terms or conditions of employment.” Furthermore, Gjovik took issue with Cook’s memo vowing to “identify those who leaked … product IP or the details of a confidential meeting.”
While Apple finally relaxed its policy regarding discussing pay in November 2021, its relationship with employees has come under intense scrutiny in recent years. Last year saw a US Apple Store successfully unionize for the first time in the company’s history, and numerous others attempted to follow suit. These attempts met with mixed results and considerable acrimony.
It’s important to note that while it can order companies to change their policies, the NLRB does not have the power to impose punitive damages if they don’t comply. Should Apple’s response prove unsatisfactory, however, this ruling is likely to lead to a complaint and potentially a federal case against the company, particularly given that the NLRB has ruled against Apple previously.
Facing a rising interest in the advantages of collective bargaining, it’s been reported that Apple sent out a list of anti-union talking points to its store managers. One store withdrew its filing in November, alleging “anti-union practices and increased hostility towards workers.” But most famous was a store in Cumberland, Atlanta, which withdrew a unionization attempt days before the vote, citing “a systematic, sophisticated campaign to intimidate [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 violated federal law by interrogating and coercing employees.