Apple Store employees accuse company of union busting

The company allegedly held captive audience meetings in the lead up to a union election in Atlanta.

Alyssa Pointer / reuters

Apple Store employees who are organizing in Atlanta have accused the company of union busting and violating the National Labor Relations Act. The Communications Workers of America submitted an Unfair Labor Practice filing on behalf of workers at the Cumberland Mall store. The filing claims that Apple "has conducted mandatory 'captive audience' meetings with bargaining unit employees regarding the upcoming election."

For decades, companies have been allowed to conduct captive audience meetings until 24 hours before a union election begins. Employers typically use these mandatory meetings to deliver anti-union messaging.

However, as The Verge notes, National Labor Relations Board general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo claimed in a memo last month that such meetings are in 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.

The Cumberland Mall Apple Store workers filed for a union election with the NLRB last month. The election is set for early June. The workers said that while they "love this company," they are fighting for better pay and benefits, among other things.

Union drives are in progress at other Apple Store locations. Earlier this month, it was reported that Apple gave retail store managers anti-union talking points to use in daily "download" meetings that take place before shifts.

“Whether or not we join a union should be up to the workers at the store,” Derrick Bowles, a worker at the Cumberland store, said in a statement. “By having store managers try to persuade us not to join the union during daily downloads, Apple is putting its thumb on the scale.”

Engadget has contacted Apple for comment.

Update 5/17 1:58PM ET: Added Derrick Bowles' statement and details from the filing.