Leaked Memo reveals anti-Apple union talking points for store managers

Apple unions leaked talking points

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On the Clock is Motherboard’s reports on organized labor movement, temporary work, automation, and the future of work.

Apple is distributing a series of anti-union talking points to store leaders for use with employees in the United States, amid fears a wave of unions could erupt across its US stores.

In talking points obtained by Motherboard, Apple highlighted that workers could lose opportunities for career growth, the ability to take time off for personal reasons, and merit-based promotions if they vote to join unions. “The quality of your work may not even be a factor,” stated Talking Points. He also instructed managers to tell workers that if they joined unions, they might face “less opportunity,” less “flexibility,” and that the company would pay “less attention to merit.”

Talking points say, “There are a lot of things to consider.” “The first is how the union can fundamentally change the way we work.”

In recent weeks, the top three Apple Stores ever ran for union elections in Atlanta, New York City, and Tucson, Maryland. If any of them vote to join unions, workers can form Apple’s first US retail union.

Motherboard obtained and verified Apple’s talking points, which were attached to an email sent to Apple Store leaders. One talking point says, “What makes a store great is having a team that works well together.” “This can’t always happen when the federation represents the store team members.”

Managers have used this script in recent weeks during store meetings, known internally as “downloads,” which typically start shifts at Apple’s retail stores, multiple sources told Motherboard.

It’s not clear how many Apple Store leaders in the US received a copy of these talking points, but Motherboard confirmed that leaders received them at several Apple Stores. An Apple employee at the union store, who asked not to be identified because he feared retaliation, told Motherboard that each of the talking points from the document had already been used by managers in their store.

Although Apple has not said publicly that it opposes unions, talking points strongly suggest that this is the position of the tech giant. Apple retained Littler Mendelson, a leading anti-union law firm that also works on Starbucks’ anti-union campaign, to represent it on union-related matters. The talking points are very similar to the rhetoric recently used by Amazon and Starbucks to oppose union campaigns among their employees.

Starbucks said workers could lose wages, benefits and support in their immigration status if they vote to join unions, and Amazon told workers they could make minimum wages and lose free college education benefits if they joined unions.

Apple retail workers say they’re working with unions to have a say in their hours, pay and benefits, and because they want to push Apple, the world’s most valuable company, to share more of its wealth with its front-line workers who sell and repair iPhones, MacBooks and iPads. A large body of research shows that unionized workers receive significantly higher wages and stronger benefits than nonunion workers in the same industries.

Another benefit Apple has highlighted that employees may lose is Career Experiences, a program that allows Apple retail employees to work in a new role and contribute to projects at Apple in order to advance their careers. In a section of the document titled “Less Opportunities,” the text says, “Many union contracts define and limit what a particular employee is allowed to do. I can’t predict what will happen to career experiences under union—that will be subject to negotiation—but what if the contract restricts anyone? Who can do any work outside a narrow job classification? This may mean that employees will not be able to work in a different area or choose to work as extended assignments.”

Some Apple retail workers said the motivation for forming unions is to have a say in the company’s scheduling system, which gives them a little flexibility in striving for work-life balance. But Apple argues on its talking points that workers will lose flexibility if they join unions.

“The way things work now, I have the discretion to give employees some time off if they are working with a difficult client, or to justify an absence or start later if someone is going home,” the text reads. “A strict guild contract that must be followed at all times will make this very difficult.”

Apple’s store leaders’ script also portrays the union as an outside third party, a common tactic used by anti-union employers to convince employees that unions will drive a wedge between workers and management. “If the guild enters our store, we will place many of our interactions in the hands of a third party,” the document says.

He continues, “An outside union that doesn’t know Apple or our culture will only make things more complicated and hard.” “Leaders will not have the flexibility to act in the moment or meet the unique needs of each person as they do now.”

Do you have a tip to share with us about organizing at Apple? Please contact reporter Lauren Gurley at lauren.gurley@vice.com or securely at Signal 201-897-2109.

Union regulators say this argument backfired in recent counterattacks led by Starbucks and Amazon against union campaigns, where workers could see union organizers as their colleagues.

Apple declined to comment on why it circulated these talking points, but reiterated in a statement it previously sent: “We are fortunate to have incredible members of the retail team and we deeply appreciate everything they give Apple. We are pleased to offer very strong compensation and benefits to full-time and part-time employees, Including healthcare, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, annual stock grants and many other benefits.”

The Apple Store Consortium election in Atlanta has been set for June 2.

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