Apple accused of illegally firing pro-union workers

A national labor organization has charged Apple with union busting.

REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

Apple is once again facing accusations of cracking down on union organizers. The Communications Workers of America union (CWA) has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asserting that Apple illegally intimidated and fired workers at Houston and Kansas City, Missouri stores in retaliation for their labor organization efforts. The ex-employees in Kansas City were ostensibly cut loose for being slightly late, calling out from work or even making typos in timesheets, but were also made to sign a "release of all claims" to get their severance pay. They couldn't challenge Apple's practices once they left, in other words.

In Houston, Apple allegedly questioned workers individually about their union support and offered improved conditions if they dropped their labor support. Those that persisted in pro-union activity were disciplined and threatened with deteriorating conditions, the CWA claims.

Only two US stores, in Oklahoma City and Towson, Maryland, unionized in 2022. Abroad, a store in Glasgow became the third. Other employees, such as those in St. Louis, Missouri, have filed for union elections. Staff in Atlanta called off a vote last spring after accusing Apple of intimidation tactics.

We've asked Apple for comment. The company has historically opposed unionization efforts, reportedly holding mandatory anti-union meetings. Apple is also said to have withheld benefits from unionized workers at the Towson store while claiming that they needed to strike a collective bargaining agreement. The firm has tried to head off labor movements by raising wages, expanding benefits and relaxing schedules.

Fights between tech giants and their rank-and-file workers aren't new. Labor organization in tech reached a fever pitch in 2022, with workers at companies like Activision Blizzard, Amazon and Microsoft either unionizing or making their displeasure known. Those brands, meanwhile, have frequently tried to block unionization attempts. The CWA's charges suggest those battles are continuing well into the new year.