Apple strikes deal with investors to audit its labor practices
Apple will conduct an assessment of its labor practices in the United States as part of an agreement with a coalition of investors including five New York City pension funds.
The assessment will focus on whether Apple complies with its stated human rights policy regarding “workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining rights in the United States,” the company said. company in a filing last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The audit follows complaints from federal regulators and employees that the company has repeatedly violated the labor rights of workers as they seek to unionize over the past year. Apple has denied the charges.
“There is an apparent wide gap between Apple’s stated human rights policies regarding worker organizing and its practices,” said Brad Lander, the New York City Comptroller, who has helped initiate the discussion with Apple on behalf of the city’s public workers’ pension funds.
As part of its agreement with the investor coalition, which also includes other pension funds for unionized workers, Apple has agreed to hire a third-party company to conduct the assessment, the coalition said in a letter to the president of the company on Tuesday.
The letter also set out recommendations for the assessment, including hiring a company that has expertise in labor rights and does not advise companies on how to avoid unionization. He recommended that the company be “as independent as possible”.
Apple’s federal filing did not explicitly refer to a third party, and the company declined to comment further.
Members of the investor coalition controlled about $7 billion in Apple stock as of last week, out of a market capitalization of more than $2 trillion. In its financial filing announcing the valuation, Apple provided few details, saying it would complete the valuation by the end of the year and issue a report related to the valuation.
Last year, workers voted to unionize at two Apple stores — in Townson, Maryland, and Oklahoma City — and workers at two other stores filed petitions to hold union elections before withdrawing them.
Many workers involved in union organizing at the company said they enjoyed their jobs and praised their employer, citing benefits such as health care and stock grants and the satisfaction of working with the products. Apple. But they said they hope unionizing will help them earn better pay, greater participation in the schedule and more transparency when it comes to getting assignments and promotions.
In May, Apple announced it was raising its minimum starting hourly wage from $20 to $22, a move that some workers interpreted as an attempt to undermine their union organizing drives.
The workers also filed charges accusing Apple of labor rights violations at at least six stores, including accusations that the company illegally surveilled them, banned union flyers from a break room, questioned them about their organization, threatened them for organizing and said that organizing would be futile.
The Communications Workers of America, the union representing Apple workers in Oklahoma City, also filed a lawsuit accusing Apple of creating an illegal company union at a store in Columbus, Ohio — a union created and controlled by the leadership to stifle support for an independent union.
The National Labor Relations Board filed formal complaints in two of the cases, involving stores in Atlanta and New York.
Apple said it “strongly disagrees” with the labor board claims and looks forward to defending itself. The company emphasized that “regular, open, honest, and direct communication with our team members is a key part of Apple’s collaborative culture.”
The investor coalition that pushed for the workforce rating argues that Apple’s response to labor campaigns is at odds with its human rights policy because that policy commits it to respect the International Labor Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which includes “freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
Mr. Lander, the New York comptroller, said the coalition initially reached out to Apple’s board of directors last spring to discuss the company’s position on the union organization, but that she had not received a substantive response.
The coalition then filed a shareholder proposal in September urging Apple to hire an outside firm to assess whether the company was meeting its stated commitment to workers’ rights. The company responded late last year and the two sides reached an agreement in exchange for the coalition withdrawing the proposal, according to Lander.
A coalition of some of the same investors, including New York pension funds, filed a similar proposal at Starbucks, where workers have voted to unionize at more than 250 company-owned stores since late 2021. Like Apple , Starbucks cited its commitment to International Labor Organization standards such as freedom of association and the right to engage in collective bargaining.
But Starbucks has always opposed attempts by its employees to unionize, and Starbucks has not engaged with the coalition of investors to reach an agreement. Jonas Kron, advocacy director of Trillium Asset Management, one of the investors who made proposals in both companies, said he expected Starbucks’ proposal to be put to a vote by the company’s shareholders. . The company declined to comment.
The Federal Labor Commission has filed a few dozen formal complaints against Starbucks for violations, including retaliation against workers involved in the organization and discrimination against unionized workers when introducing new benefits; the company denied violating labor laws.
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