Apple Hires Anti-Union Lawyers as Situation With Unionizing Retail Workers Continue

Apple has reportedly hired anti-union lawyers at Littler Mendelson as a situation with unionizing retail staff in Atlanta continues to boil over.

Last week, Apple store staff at Atlanta’s Cumberland Mall filed for a union election. The employees are said to be unionizing with the Communications Workers of America. This has sparked concerns within the company over whether other retail stores across the U.S. will begin organizing as well. As a result, Apple has brought on Littler Mendelson, according to The Verge.

Apple has not come forward and made a public stance against unions. However, bringing Littler Mendelson lawyers into the fold does paint a picture of what may be to come. Currently, Littler Mendelson is working with Starbucks to fight workers attempting to organize and form their own union.

“From the start I’ve thought unionization was a good thing,” an anonymous employee told The Verge. “Pay is so unequal at the stores — there are people who’ve been in roles for less time making more than people who’ve worked in those same roles for years. They position themselves as a company that’s open to feedback but nobody acts on it. With a union backing the employees, they’ll be more pressure on them to actually act on it.”

The report also covers a handbook on worker organizing that Littler Mendelson utilizes. In it, companies are instructed on the options they have and what they can do in order to bust any form of unionizing within the company. This ultimately includes persuading employees to vote “no” on whether to unionize. Other tactics include prohibiting pro-union pamphlet distribution if it creates a “litter problem.”

Additionally, the Litter Mendelson covers how companies are able to ban union organizing during work hours. One staff member at a New York Apple store claimed that Apple has been holding captive audience meetings during work hours. These are typically used to denounce unions and spread anti-union messaging within a company. “There’s a lot of misinformation that’s been spread trying to scare the masses,” the worker, who once again asked to remain anonymous, told The Verge. “I think they’re panicking.”

Discussions of unions have been gaining steadier traction over the past two years. Retail workers have been dealing with the fallout of COVID-19. Unrest has also been sparked by wages. Typically, an Apple store employee’s wage ranges from $17 to $30 an hour. Mental health and work-life balance has also been cause for concern and left some employees to search for unionizing options.

The union fight comes after a difficult two years for retail staff who’ve had to contend with COVID-19 outbreaks and mental health crises exacerbated by heavy workloads.

Although the company has not publically discussed its relationship with Litter Mendelson, Apple spokesperson Nick Leahy told The Verge, “We are fortunate to have incredible retail team members and we deeply value everything they bring to Apple. We are pleased to offer very strong compensation and benefits for full time and part time employees, including health care, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, annual stock grants and many other benefits.”