Workers at the Cumberland Mall Apple Store will no longer hold union elections in June, according to a report by Bloomberg† The Communications Workers of America (or CWA), the union trying to organize the store, says it has withdrawn the election request because “Apple’s repeated violations of the National Labor Relations Act have made a free and fair election impossible. “
The vote, which was set to begin on June 2, would have been the first union election at a U.S. Apple Store had it gone ahead. Now that title will go to a store in Maryland unless that petition is also withdrawn. Employees of the Towson Town Center store will vote in person on June 15.
In the run-up to the now-canceled election, Apple has faced allegations of union breakdown. The company has hired anti-union lawyers and has distributed anti-union messages through store managers and even video messages from executives. The CWA has also filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that the company held captive audience meetings in Atlanta to opt out of organizing. The NLRB is trying to make these kinds of gatherings illegal.
The company has also tried slightly friendlier tactics to make unionization less attractive to employees — reportedly increasing the starting wage for store workers by $2 an hour. While payment topped the organizers’ list of priorities for the Atlanta Apple Store, published in an open letter last month, there were several other non-monetary requests. They include better career opportunities, especially for marginalized workers, and more flexibility for civic participation and volunteering.
According to Bloomberg, organizers also said COVID-19 was also a factor in their decision to withdraw the request; they feared that it would make voting unsafe, or even that certain employees wouldn’t be able to vote at all. Apple’s COVID safety policy was also mentioned in the organizers’ open letter, demanding that the company receive input from employees on its health policy and work harder to enforce existing safety regulations.
The unionization efforts seemed to have broad support from store employees. When organizers applied to hold elections in April, more than 70 percent of workers had signed cards to support the move.
The NLRB did not immediately respond to The edge‘s request for comment on whether the union’s allegations of harassment could lead to an investigation. Apple also did not immediately respond to our request for comment on the allegations.