Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has been found to have violated the rights of its retail employees by a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge, who ruled that the company engaged in “coercive” tactics against pro-union sympathizers. The ruling is seen as a significant victory for labor organizers at the tech giant.
The decision, which was made on Tuesday, targets the treatment of employees at Apple’s World Trade Center store in New York City. The judge, Lauren Esposito, determined that a supervisor at the store was found to have improperly questioned a staff member about his discussions with other staff members about wages and their opinion about unionization efforts across the company.
Esposito ruled that this coercive interrogation is against US labor law that protects the right of workers to organize.
The judge also ruled that managers at the store had asked union literature to be removed and disposed of even if it’s legally allowed to have these materials in non-working spaces such as break rooms.
Esposito called for Apple to “cease and desist” these actions and to respect the rights of its employees. This is the first time that an NLRB judge has ruled against Apple.
Last year, workers at two of Apple’s retail stores, in Maryland and Oklahoma, successfully voted to unionize. These victories were part of a broader trend of organizing efforts at traditionally non-unionized companies, including Starbucks, Amazon, and Chipotle.
The Communications Workers of America, the union behind the World Trade Center campaign, expressed support for the NLRB judge’s ruling and pledged to hold Apple accountable.
The decision by the NLRB’s administrative law judges can be appealed to the labor board’s members in Washington and, if necessary, to a federal appeals court. NLRB has the authority to mandate changes to company policies, but it does not have the power to hold executives personally liable or impose punitive damages.
While Apple has denied any wrongdoing, this ruling could have implications for the tech giant’s labor practices nationwide. The company has four other complaints awaiting ruling before the NLRB.
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