Apple faces additional scrutiny for its alleged crackdown on pro-union retail workers. House representatives Emanuel Cleaver and Sylvia Garcia sent a letter to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) requesting an investigation into alleged labor abuses at stores in Houston and Kansas City, Missouri. Politicians are concerned by claims that Apple fired five Kansas City employees in retaliation for unionization efforts and disciplined several Houston employees for trying to organize.
In March, the Communications Works of America (CWA) union filed charges with the NLRB over the alleged retaliation. The CWA believes that Apple used weak pretenses to fire and intimidate employees, such as showing up a bit late and even typos on time sheets. Some of the workers were reportedly forced to sign a release of liability against the company if they wanted severance pay. These practices are illegal, Cleaver and Garcia say.
House members also pointed to the NLRB’s January finding that Apple was violating labor rights with rules barring leaks and discussions of working conditions. The representatives are concerned about a “recurring pattern,” according to the letter. In December, the board said Apple also broke the law by holding union-busting meetings in Atlanta.
We have asked Apple for feedback. The company has previously argued that it can take better care of non-union retail staff. At the same time, it has addressed concerns by raising wages, improving benefits and easing its scheduling rules.
The letter does not require the NLRB to respond, and there is no certainty that an investigation will lead to official action. Still, it’s notable that Apple’s stance on the retail workforce has caught the attention of Congress. It won’t be surprising if there is more interest from the federal government, whether or not the NLRB responds to the letter.