Leaked anti-union Apple memo warns ‘opportunities for employees’ could vanish

Apple is circulating a series of anti-union talking points for retail store managers to use with employees in the United States to thwart a potential flood of unionization attempts across its U.S. stores.

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Lauren Kaori Gurley for Vice’s Motherboard:

In the talking points, obtained by Motherboard, Apple highlights that workers could lose career growth opportunities, the ability to take time off for personal reasons, and merit-based promotions if they vote to unionize. “The quality of your work may not even be a factor,” the talking points read. It has also instructed managers to tell workers that if they unionize they could face “fewer opportunities,” have less “flexibility,” and that the company will pay “less attention to merit.”

“There are a lot of things to consider,” the talking points say. “One is how a union could fundamentally change the way we work.”

While Apple has not publicly said that it opposes unionization, the talking points suggest strongly that this is the tech giant’s stance. Apple has retained Littler Mendelson, a leading anti-union law firm that is also working on Starbucks’ anti-union campaign, to represent it on union-related matters.

MacDailyNews Take: If talking sense doesn’t work, Apple should consider more drastic measures.

An employer is free to simply close its operations at any time, even when facing unionization efforts. Apple could then develop and open new retail stores in the same cities with new staff.

The company closed every store in an entire country (Russia) and still posted all-time quarterly results; it could easily absorb this handful of store closures with subsequent relocations/restaffing to drive home the point that:

In a free market, 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 and benefits granted 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 (over time).

Not so for retail employees. If one leaves, there’s an endless 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. But the cost of their employment must make financial sense, regardless of how good an employee is – if it costs more to keep them than they are worth to the company, they should seek employment elsewhere, not force overpayment / continued employment.

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. retail 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.

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15 Comments

  1. Unions are full of commie not-working scum these days. I would fire anyone talking about this. Let them form their own “nirvana” company. Oh that’s right, they never will. Buh bye.

  2. Anyone who says unions are “all bad” has an agenda. As a moderate, I see things from different angles. There is clear evidence that working class Americans are poorer than they were in the 1970s. I worked at places with unions and places without unions. And I can tell you, in a non-union environment, employers will fire people for no reason, just to send a message to their coworkers, “Hey, you are all replaceable” . . . If you actually talk to service workers, many of them work 2 or 3 part time jobs (why? Because employers will not hire them full time, to avoid having to pay health insurance) . . . People who are vehemently anti-union, and anti-worker rights, are basically saying, “Thirty percent of the economy is service workers, and I am OK with other human beings living as indentured servants, as long as I get my coffee, hamburger, etc. at discounted prices”

    1. While I appreciate much of your commentary I think what 70% of us (using your numbers) are saying is that service workers should be paid the wage they deserve for the work they do. Service workers at McDonald’s should not expect to earn what a mechanic or licensed electrician makes. Similarly, that plumber shouldn’t expect to earn what a doctor does.

    2. Having been a young adult in the 1970’s, your assessment is way, way off. A telephone call from Hawaii to CA cost $3.00 a minute. I watched tv on a 13” black and white tv. People drove beater cars. When I taught in a low income inner city school a couple of years back, nearly every student had a top end iPhone or Android – not a single cheap flip phone. So your assessment is either biased or flawed.

  3. As an employer, if you deserve a union, you’ll get a union, and you’ll get the union you deserve.

    With this memo Apple just earned themselves a union.

    1. Yeah, you’re full of BS all right. I too worked for unions back in the early 1970s. The AFLCIO was corrupt as hell with the union reps seen out playing golf and having expensive martini lunches with our airline’s senior management and the CEO, especially at contract re-negotiation time. We low level employees were paying a high % of our wages in dues and got a pittance in improved pay and working conditions.

      On the other hand, ALPA, the airline pilots’ union was honorable and crusaded for safety over wage hikes. They are a rarity among unions.

      MDNs opinion on this subject is spot-on; every word is accurate. Union control destroys incentives—among both workers and managers—and creates rotten adversarial attitudes in the workplace. A few bad apples (no pun intended) will devastate the morale in even a formerly great company.

      1. I’ll let the aholes on each side fight it out. At least there will be an ahole protecting the workers to some degree and selling them out to another lesser degree.

  4. “It has also instructed managers to tell workers that if they unionize….and that the company will pay “less attention to merit.”

    Merit ALWAYS becomes less valued in such a scenario…as unions have other non-merit factors driving their focus. Merit is soooo cruel too…as some are noted & awarded for work efforts that bring new ideas, increased productivity and efficiency.

    It’s the same mindset that drives the “equity” BS. Extolling this as good compromises “equality” for some (equity ALWAYS means someone is treated unequally), but also lessens excellence…which merit catalyzes.

  5. Good. Apple should tell these clowns, no forget telling, Apple should give the boot to every employee that even considers trying to join a cabal, er union. Unions are completely worthless grifters syphoning their gulliable members out of their money for nothing in return. Unions are a scourge to business

  6. Your rant is insane.

    Coming from a country where unions are the norm rather than the exception, they are a great equalizer that makes sure we don’t see the kind of working poor that are way too common in the US. We don’t see corruption in unions. It’s just workers organizing their bargaining with the employer which is a net positive for both sides as it’s easier to negotiate 1:many than many times 1:1.

    If you have corruption issues in unions, it’s probably because the rest of the system is corrupt too, so maybe start by fixing money in politics. Unions aren’t bad on their own. Unions OUGHT to be everywhere to protect those that are otherwise abused by capitalism run amok (rather than regular capitalism).

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