Apple is facing additional scrutiny over its alleged crackdown against pro-union retail workers. House Representatives Emanuel Cleaver and Sylvia Garcia have sent a letter to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asking for an investigation into alleged labor abuses at Houston and Kansas City, Missouri stores. The politicians are concerned about claims Apple fired five Kansas City staff in retaliation for unionization efforts, and disciplined multiple Houston employees for attempting to organize.
In March, the Communications Works of America union (CWA) filed charges with the NLRB over the purported retaliation. The CWA believes Apple used thin pretexts to fire and intimidate employees, such as slightly late arrivals and even typos in timesheets. Some of the workers were reportedly forced to sign a release of claims against the company if they wanted a severance package. These practices are illegal, Cleaver and Garcia say.
The House members also pointed to the NLRB’s January finding that Apple was violating labor rights with rules barring leaks and discussions of employment conditions. The representatives are worried about a “recurring pattern,” according to the letter. In December, the board said Apple also broke the law by holding anti-union meetings in Atlanta.
We’ve asked Apple for comment. The company has previously argued that it can better care for retail staff without unions. At the same time, it has addressed concerns by raising pay, improving benefits and easing its scheduling rules.
The letter doesn’t obligate the NLRB to respond, and there’s no certainty that an investigation will lead to official action. Even so, it’s notable that Apple’s stance on retail labor has drawn Congress’ attention. It won’t be surprising if there’s more interest from the federal government, whether or not the NLRB responds to the letter.