NLRB says Apple violated federal law with anti-union meetings in Atlanta

The workers at Apple's Cumberland Mall store were taking steps to organize earlier this year.

Alyssa Pointer / reuters

Apple's attempts to quell employees' unionization efforts violated federal law, according to the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB's Atlanta regional director concluded that Apple held mandatory "captive audience" meetings and made coercive statements with anti-union messaging. The workers at Apple's Cumberland Mall store filed for a union election with the NLRB earlier this year in a bid to join the Communications Workers of America (CWA). In May, however, they withdrew their petition, and the CWA submitted an Unfair Labor Practice complaint on their behalf.

The CWA said in its complaint at the time that Apple had "conducted mandatory 'captive audience' meetings with bargaining unit employees regarding the upcoming election." In a newer statement sent to Bloomberg, the organization said that holding meetings like that is "not only union-busting, but an example of psychological warfare." As the news organization notes, the NLRB had previously allowed companies to require employees to attend mandatory meetings prior to union elections. But Jennifer Abruzzo, the labor board's current general counsel, sees them as coercive and in violation of the law.

The NLRB said that it will issue a complaint if the tech giant doesn't settle. While the labor board's regional director has sided with the workers and with CWA, it's still up in the air whether Apple will be required to change its policies or suffer any sort of punishment. Complaints issued by regional directors will have to go through the board's judges, and companies could approach the NLRB's board members in Washington to appeal rulings they hand down. The case could go to federal court after that.

Apple is facing another complaint by the NLRB, which found enough merit in a report also filed by the CWA on behalf of the company's World Trade Center workers in NYC. For that particular case, Apple was accused of surveilling staff, limiting their access to pro-union fliers and forcing them to listen to anti-union speeches. If Apple doesn't settle, a judge will hear the case on December 13th.