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Apple discourages retail employees from joining unions

Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s head of retail and human relations, told employees in a video this week that joining a union has downsides, and that Apple believes that unions are not committed to its employees.

Apple hasn’t publicly said that it opposes the recent union drives in multiple retail stores across the U.S., but the message to employees shows it’s discouraging employees from entering into collective bargaining agreements.

“I want to start out by saying it’s your right to join a union, but it’s equally your right not to join a union,” O’Brien said, according to audio published by Vice. “If you’re faced with that decision, I want to encourage you to consult a wide range of people and sources to understand what it could be like to work at Apple under a collective bargaining agreement.”

In the remarks, O’Brien says she believes that Apple is responsive to employee concerns and that a union would make it harder for corporate officials to address issues raised by workers.

Apple faces at least three union drives among its over 270 U.S. stores. One store in the Cumberland Mall in Atlanta will vote to unionize with Communications Workers of America on June 2. Another store in Towson, Md., will vote later in June to be organized with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Employees at a third store in New York City are currently collecting signatures to officially show interest in organizing.

Union organizers have said that they want a voice on workplace issues such as in-store Covid safety rules as well as higher pay to keep up with the rising cost of living. Organizers at the Grand Central Terminal location in New York have asked for at least $30 per hour.

Apple retail workers are organizing amidst a significant revival in union interest in the U.S. with President Biden’s support. Over 50 Starbucks stores have unionized across the country. An Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York unionized earlier this year. No U.S. Apple stores have yet been unionized although there are collective bargaining agreements with retail employees in other countries.

An Apple representative declined to comment. The company has previously said that it offers strong compensation and benefits to retail employees, including a minimum wage over $20 per hour. CNBC

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