By Libby Rainey & Nico Pitney
Apple’s top retail executive sent an anti-union video to all Apple retail stores in the U.S. on Tuesday, marking a significant escalation of the company’s union-busting campaign.
In the video, Apple vice president Deirdre O’Brien warned workers that if they choose to form a union, the company may not be able to offer “immediate, widespread” benefits going forward.
“We need to be able to move fast,” she said. “And I worry that because the union would bring its own legally mandated rules that would determine how we work through issues, it could make it harder for us to act swiftly to address things that you raise.”
O’Brien reminded workers of some of Apple’s current benefits, like parental leave and paid family care — all of which the company can reduce or eliminate at will without a union contract in place.
She then warned that if workers were to vote for a union, “it could limit our ability to make immediate, widespread changes to improve your experience and I think that’s what’s really at stake here.”
Audio of the message was shared with More Perfect Union by an Apple Store employee. Apple added unique store watermarks to each version of the video so any copies would identify which store it leaked from.
Three Apple stores have filed for union elections in the past month and workers at dozens of other stores are reportedly organizing.
While CEO Tim Cook made $98 million last year, workers face threats from customers and are barely scraping by.
On its website, Apple claims to hold the “highest standards of labor conduct,” and it explicitly forbids its suppliers from interfering when workers organize unions.
But when U.S. workers at Apple Stores began to organize, the company quickly launched a sweeping anti-union campaign.
Retail workers across the country say that Apple has been illegally interrogating staff and forcing them into “captive audience” anti-union meetings. Workers in New York and Georgia filed formal NLRB charges this week.
A talking points memo to Apple Store managers urged them to tell workers they could lose career opportunities, personal time-off, and merit-based promotions if they organize.
Apple hired Littler Mendelson, the union-busting consulting firm also retained by Starbucks, and Apple now appears to be mirroring some of Starbucks’ anti-union strategies.
In the same way that Starbucks executives went on a national “listening tour” after workers in Buffalo filed the first union petitions, Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s retail chief, has been visiting Apple stores around the country, including a store in Maryland shortly after workers announced plans to unionize.
And O’Brien’s video message — falsely suggesting that Apple wouldn’t be able to extend new benefits to unionized workers — mirrors the messaging that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz as adopted.
“I genuinely couldn’t believe that Apple would put out something so blatantly false & wrong about unions—especially the head of retail of all people,” said the Apple Store worker who shared O’Brien’s video with us. “When pressured with the idea that workers want more and they think they deserve more, this company will operate on the same contingency as Starbucks and the same contingency as Amazon.”