Apple has not been shy about its belief that Apple Store workers are better off by not unionizing. Most recently, the company held nationwide meetings with retail workers to “discuss the risks of unionization.”
In a new report today, The New York Times spoke to multiple former Apple Store employees who allege they were fired for their role in unionization efforts. The report also compares Apple’s efforts to what similar companies like Starbucks have done over the last several years.
In the report, one former Apple Store employee suggests that she was targeted and ultimately fired for being active in union organizing at her store in Kansas City, Missouri. In an interview, Gemma Wyatt alleges that she was disciplined last year for “clocking in late a few times over the previous several weeks.”
Come February of this year, Wyatt said that she was fired by Apple after she “missed a store meeting because she was sick but failed to notify managers soon enough.” In the interview, Wyatt said that she was at least the fifth employee from the Apple Store in Kansas City who had been fired since last fall. “It took us time to realize they weren’t firing us just because of time and attendance,” she told The New York Times.
Wyatt is among a number of former Apple Store employees from the Kansas City store who filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in March. In that filing, Wyatt said that she was disciplined “after arriving late for her shift by an average of one minute, three times in a month.”
D’lite Xiong, another former Apple Store employee in Kansas, said that they were informed they would be fired in October of last year. They ended up going on leave to “buy time to appeal the decision,” the report says, before ultimately being let go when they returned in January.
Xiong said they had “recently gotten promoted” and been “praised for doing a great job” before suddenly being fired. They speculated that Apple “discovered their role in union organizing after they sought to enlist co-workers.”
Amid these firings, Apple Store locations in Towson, Maryland and Oklahoma City had voted in favor of unionization. In addition to the firings, managers at the Apple Store in Kansas City reportedly “disciplined several who supported unionizing for issues related to tardiness or absences that other workers typically have not been punished for.”
In a statement to The New York Times, Apple denied the accusations made by these former employees. The company said that it has not “disciplined or fired any workers” for union activity. “We strongly deny these claims and look forward to providing the full set of facts to the NLRB,” the company said.
Apple has also agreed to a third-party audit of its labor practices amid these allegations of union-busting. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said that the third-party audit will ensure that it is complying with human rights policies. In Atlanta, an NLRB regional director concluded that Apple broke the law with its tactics at an Apple Store in that city.
In Towson, Maryland, Apple is in active negotiations with union representatives on the demands set forth by unionized employees. Most recently, it was reported that employees want customer tips, a 10% raise, and more.
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