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Apple's announcement in its proxy statement that it will conduct an assessment of its policies on workers' freedom of association comes in the same week as the National Labor Relations Board held a hearing on its finding that the company broke the law by interfering with and coercing workers who were trying to form a union at its World Trade Center store. This is not an isolated case. Apple has repeatedly interfered with the right of workers' to join unions, and is under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board for forcing workers to attend anti-union meetings, launching an illegal company union, interrogating and surveilling workers, and other violations.
Apple claims to abide by the International Labour Organization's principles on workers' freedom of association and collective bargaining rights which define freedom of association as "the right of workers ... to create and join organizations of their choice freely and without fear of reprisal or interference.” There's no mystery here. The company's response to workers forming unions at its retail stores has clearly shown that it does not abide by these principles.
While a credible, independent assessment by individuals or organizations with the appropriate expertise on workers' freedom of association could uncover important information about Apple's response to worker organizing, including its use of union busting consultants, workers need concrete solutions now. Apple must commit to a true policy of neutrality toward union organizing efforts. Instead of forcing store managers to recite anti-union talking points, Apple should train managers to leave the conversation about joining a union to the workers themselves.
Apple's workers deserve respect and a voice on the job, not just another self-congratulatory exercise in corporate image management. We support investor advocates’ efforts to ensure this is a credible audit.