Apple hires anti-union lawyers in escalating fight with retail workers

Apple has hired anti-union lawyers at Littler Mendelson in an escalating fight with retail workers in Atlanta who last week filed for a union election.

Apple logo

Zoe Schiffer for The Verge:

Though the company has not publicly stated its stance on Apple Stores unionizing, the move sends a strong signal that it plans to oppose workers organizing for better pay and working conditions.

Littler is currently representing Starbucks in its efforts to fight off worker organizing. It previously helped McDonald’s avoid responsibility in a 2014 case that alleged the company, as a joint employer, violated labor laws by retaliating against workers who participated in the Fight for $15 campaign.

Last week, Apple retail workers at the Cumberland Mall in Atlanta filed for a union election. The employees are unionizing with the Communications Workers of America… “By retaining the notorious union busting firm Littler Mendelson, Apple’s management is showing that they intend to try to prevent their employees from exercising their right to join a union by running the same playbook as other large corporations,” said CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens…

In a statement, Apple spokesperson Nick Leahy said, “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.”

MacDailyNews Take: Once again, we’ll reiterate that jobs are valued by supply and demand.

The skillset for a retail employee is different than that for, say, a software engineer. Potential retail employees are an order of magnitude more plentiful than software engineers and the wages paid for each job reflect that discrepancy.

You’re not going to get rich working in retail. There are simply too many other people capable of doing your job. Nobody likes to hear that their job is a dime a dozen. Regardless, retail jobs are a dime a dozen.

If retail workers unionize, they can, and do, force abnormal wages and benefits that do not reflect the reality of supply and demand for such positions.

What happens next (besides backroom graft and corruption between union bosses and politicians)?

The corporation is forced to overpay unionized staff to do tasks that, in a free and unfettered market, should cost the company far less. Therefore, to maintain margins and profitability (in order to satisfy the company’s shareholders and the market), the company is forced to either cut back in other areas or raise prices for goods and services. The company cannot “absorb the cost” longterm.

Talk about inflation.

That said, yes, executive compensation is out of whack. Tim Cook is vastly overpaid for what he does. This is because he holds a rare skillset and it benefits the shareholders to have continuity in the CEO position. Basically, Apple overpays Tim Cook in order to have a long-term CEO which provides confidence to the market. A succession of different CEOs jumping from company to company every other year seeking higher salaries would be a negative and justifies Cook’s overpayment. Cook is paid to stay more than for what he actually does. This is why he has vesting targets set years into the future. If he stays, providing continuity, he benefits and so does the company’s stock price.

Not so for retail employees. If one leaves, there’s a line of others to replace them. Sure, there are excellent retail employees and, if Apple’s retail arm is functioning properly, they are being identified and rewarded in order to keep them, as their continued employment benefits the company, the company’s customers, and the company’s shareholders.

If Apple is not functioning properly, unionization is the last resort of employees. Just know that those costs will eventually be passed to the customer. Someone has to pay. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. If those unionization costs are too high (which they tend to become over time), it will hurt the company (consumers will look for similar goods and services offered at significantly lower prices) and the retail workers will eventually feel negative effects from that (see: unions and Detroit’s automotive industry, what’s left of it).

Back in the day, unions corrected many wrongs: unsafe working conditions, forced overtime without pay, child labor, etc. None of these situations are faced by Apple Retail employees today. Some retail staffers simply want higher pay than the actual value of their work in a free market, so they want to band together to force it.

In many union settings, workers face limited advancement based on their merits. Union workers’ avenues for advancement are limited as stipulated by union contracts. So, if you are an exemplary Apple employee today, your prospects are likely brighter than if you were part of a union, subject to certain union rules governing advancement, etc. Retail employees should carefully consider the pitfalls of unionization and the consequences of unintended consequences.

Apple should do all it can, within reason, to satisfy and compensate retail employees. In fact, Apple appears to be doing so. Just this February, Bloomberg News reported that Apple will significantly increase wages and benefits for American retail workers amid a tightening labor market.

Apple adopted the following changes for U.S. workers beginning on April 4th:

• Raises ranging from 2% to 10% depending on store location and role, for salespeople, Genius Bar technical support staff, and some senior hourly workers.

• Doubling paid sick days for both full-time and part-time workers. The days can be used for mental health leave and taking family members to the doctor. This change will give full-time workers 12 paid sick days, instead of six.

• Workers receive more annual vacation days, beginning at three years of employment instead of five.

• Part-time employees will now get as many as six paid vacation days for the first time. Another first: They’ll get paid parental leave. That benefit will cover up to six weeks and will include the ability to gradually ramp up work time for the first four weeks back.

• Part-time workers also will get access to discounted emergency backup care for children or elderly family members.

Please help support MacDailyNews. Click or tap here to support our independent tech blog. Thank you!

Shop The Apple Store at Amazon.


  1. “Once again, we’ll reiterate that jobs are valued by supply and demand.”

    And workers having representation and negotiating power shifts that supply and demand towards the worker’s favor. It’s like trickle down economics, but realistic.

    1. Tell me why an Apple Store employee who spends 50% of their time standing around doing nothing deserves $30 an hour when I can throw a stone and hit 100 people who can do that job just as well?

      1. By that logic, would you also advocate having no firemen in your community? Many critical jobs require lots of skills deployed intermittently. Not everything is a continuous production line. If a worker isn’t adequately productive, that’s the fault of the manager, not the employee. A good manager mentors employees to be productive and will often have junior employees shadow experienced employees to train them on the job — that’s future productivity in motion.

        Lets be realistic about the divide between working class wages and the cost of living, driven up as you know by the top 10% money traders and executive classes congregating in big cosmopolitan coastal cities. You conveniently ignore that wage growth in the USA has been stagnant for decades. You likely enjoyed a much higher real wage in your youth than kids today can dream of. Moreover, although some here complain about gasoline, actually that’s not the acute pain point for most young retail employees. Prices for higher education, healthcare, and housing have seen strong inflation for man years. You can’t have a functioning city if the working classes can afford to live there. What’s your answer: price cap for corporate executives, higher pay so people can live near where they work, or more taxpayer-funded mass transit and congested roads so that cities can truck in labor from dozens of miles away to serve the rich in high-cost communities? Raze Wall Street and put the executive headquarters of the Fortune 500 in small towns across the nation?

        I understand you’re exaggerating (as usual), but you can’t throw stones to get productive employees. The fact that the empty pantsuits who have run Apple retail for the last several years have decreased the level of technical training of the average blue T-shirted employee there is not the fault of the employee. Apple has ample resources to both train and pay their employees better, and be more productive — if you expect Apple to be a premium quality company, that is. If with all the resources Apple has they choose not to pay their retail employees better than the local NYC coffee shop, then you should not be surprised that that’s the caliber of employees you will meet. That doesn’t mean that experienced Apple retail employees should be treated like they were disposable.

        Corporations, including Apple, deserve the pushback they get from employees who can’t afford to live on the wages they have been offered.

        1. “Corporations, including Apple, deserve the pushback they get from employees who can’t afford to live on the wages they have been offered.”

          That’s not Apple’s fault, that’s the employee’s fault. If you accept a wage that you cannot live off of, then that’s your mistake. Secondly, most people seem to be confusing a “living wage” with “living within your means”. People want all the luxuries of life like $200 sneakers, new iPhone every 6 months, $50 weekly Starbucks spend, etc. on a retail wage. Not gonna happen, and not what a retail wage is meant for.

    2. EVERYTHING is “trickle down” whether you work in public or private sector and that includes both Republican and Democrat parties in the economic scheme of things. Typical Democrat overused pejoratives are for political purposes to trigger certain voter groups and in no way REFLECT REALITY.

      Since you love Apple so much, you may like this one.

      I find under Cook Apple has multiple split personalities depending upon the issue. Couple of examples. In the USA, Cook marches in pride parades, fights for human rights around the world, environmental and social justice causes tweets and speaks forcefully on many SJW and woke issues.

      But in reality, the ‘Sybil’ personality is always present. Kowtowing to China oppression, role in censorship of China’s citizens through Apple devices, blind eye to the oppressed and human rights abuses of the Chinese government treatment of their own citizens and many more abuses in China. Yes, Cook is on a red choke collar leash.

      Since when does a Liberal woke CEO fight against FREE SPEECH? Cook is full bore campaigning actively and enlisting lobbyists to fight the weakening or removal of Section 230 that grants special privileges to Apple no other business outside of Tech enjoys the same BLANKET legal protections from lawsuits. He is also against free speech, might as well say, anything other than woke and resembles conservative views.

      Since when does a Liberal woke CEO fight against the organization of unions to pay workers a better wage? The stereotypes have always been only greedy checkered pants country club Republicans hire high profile union busting lawyers.

      Bottom Line: When it comes to obscene amounts of corporate profits Cook and the board are24/7 ADDICTED, SJW pursuits are a mere mouthing plaything at times, let nothing stand in the way of ruthless profits at all costs.

      To all the woke, excuse making Apple apologists and brainless Leftists — if you don’t see the EPIC HYPOCRISY of this man by now with the latest union busting hardball tactics, bury your head in the sand you’re HOPELESS…

      1. Seniority is the worst advancement system ever created and explains why union work is so poor. How long you have been doing something has little bearing on how well you work. Workers who do the bare minimum for a long time get advanced over younger workers with better skills.

  2. Every woke company nurtures this type of adult-adolescent behavior where employees think they’re ‘owed’ something more than the market will support.

    Simple solution, if you don’t like where you work, leave. Otherwise shut up already and get back to work.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.