Less than a week ahead of schedule, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) decided to withdraw a formal vote on unionizing employees at the Apple Store in Atlanta’s Cumberland Mall. As first reported by Bloombergthe union – which has recently invested heavily in organizing tech workers – chose to hold back due to what it called “Apple’s repeated violations of national labor relations law”.
The withdrawal follows weeks of escalating tensions between Apple and its retail staff. Shortly after Cumberland went public with its intentions, it was reported that Apple had retained Littler Mendelson, the same law firm Starbucks – which is undergoing a wave of store unionization – signed on. The company’s website states, “We excel at union avoidance.” Soon after, Apple began airing union-busting talking points to executives, and Atlanta workers claimed they were being forced into so-called ‘captive audience meetings’, a feature of the campaigns. anti-union. Earlier this week, leaked audio from an Apple vice president, Deirdre O’Brien, explained why she thinks a union isn’t right for the company. This message would have been sent to the 65,000 employees of Apple.
In a statement released today, CWA said Apple’s actions “made a free and fair election impossible.” The group also expressed concern that COVID cases among store staff could further compromise their ability to vote in person.
One of the most important reasons behind the decision of Cumberland employees to unionize was simple economic considerations. In speaking with Engadget, one of the store’s employees, Elli Daniels, described stagnant wages that had failed to keep pace with national inflation or local increases in the cost of living. Notably, Apple was one of the few companies to thrive under pandemic conditions, posting multiple consecutive record quarters.
Perhaps in an effort to avoid unrest among retail staff (Cumberland is just one of the stores currently considering unionization), Apple said it would raise pay to a starting salary. $22 per hour. “We are pleased to offer very strong compensation and benefits for full-time and part-time employees, including health care, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, grants annual shares and many other benefits,” Apple told reporters today. A declaration. (Incidentally, the pay rise was reported several hours after the aforementioned union avoidance audio was leaked to the press.)
Although an immediate setback, the withdrawal does not prevent CWA from attempting another union election – although it will have to wait at least six months to file a new case.
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