Apple reaches a deal with investors to audit its work practices

Apple will conduct an assessment of its US labor practices under an agreement with a coalition of investors that includes five New York City pension funds.

The assessment will focus on whether Apple complies with its official human rights policy regarding workers’ “freedom of association and collective bargaining rights in the United States,” the company said in a filing last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The audit comes amid complaints from federal regulators and employees that the company repeatedly violated workers’ labor rights as they sought to unionize last year. Apple has denied the allegations.

“There is a large apparent gap between Apple’s human rights policies in terms of organizing workers, and their practices,” said New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, who helped start the lawsuit. the discussion with Apple on behalf of the city workers’ pension funds.

As part of its agreement with the coalition of investors, which also includes other pension funds for unionized workers, Apple agreed to hire a third-party firm to conduct the assessment, the coalition said in a letter to the president of the company on Tuesday.

The letter also presented recommendations for the evaluation, which include hiring a company that has experience in labor rights and that does not advise companies how to avoid unionization. It is recommended that the firm 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 of Apple shares as of last week, out of a market capitalization of more than $2 trillion. In its financial filing announcing the valuation, Apple offered few details, saying it would conduct the valuation by the end of the year and publish a report related to the valuation.

Last year, workers voted to unionize at two Apple stores — in Townson, Md., 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 work and praised their employer, citing benefits such as health care and stock exchange and the satisfaction of working with Apple products . But they said they hoped unionization would help them win it pays betterno longer input into planning and more transparency when it comes to getting jobs and promotions.

In May, Apple announced that it was raising its minimum starting wage to $22 from $20, a step that some workers interpreted as an effort to undermine their organizing campaigns.

The workers also filed charges accusing Apple of labor law violations in at least six stores, including accusations that the company illegally. monitored them, union flyers banned in a break room, he questions them on its organization, threatened them for the organization and which stated that the union it would be useless.

The Communications Workers of America, the union representing Apple workers in Oklahoma City, also filed a charge accusing Apple of creating an illegal labor union at a store in Columbus, Ohio — one created and controlled by management with the goal of stifling support for an independent union.

The National Labor Relations Board issued formal complaints in two of the cases, involving stores in Atlanta and New York.

Apple said it “strongly disagrees” with the claims brought before the labor board and that it expects to defend 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 job review argues that Apple’s response to union campaigns is at odds with its human rights policy because that policy requires it to comply with the International Organization’s Declaration of work on the principles and fundamental 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 last spring to discuss the company’s stance toward union organizing, but that he had not received a response. noun

So the coalition presented a shareholder proposal in September urged Apple to hire an outside firm to assess whether the company was following its stated commitment to labor rights. The company responded at the end of last year and the two sides worked on an agreement in exchange for the coalition withdrawing its proposal, according to Mr. Lander.

A coalition of some of the same investors, including New York pension funds, presented a similar proposition at Starbucks, where workers have voted to unionize in more than 250 of the company’s stores by the end of 2021. Like Apple, Starbucks has mentioned their commitment to International Labor Organization standards such as freedom of association and the right to participate in collective bargaining.

But Starbucks has consistently opposes the attempts of its employees to unionize, and Starbucks has not engaged with the coalition of investors to work on an agreement. Jonas Kron, Chief Advocacy Officer of Trillium Asset Management, one of the investors pushing proposals in the two companies, said he expected Starbucks’ proposal to pass a vote of the company’s shareholders. The company declined to comment.

The federal Labor Board has issued a few dozen formal complaints against Starbucks for violations, including retaliating against workers involved in organizing and discriminating against unionized workers when introducing new benefits; the company denied violating labor laws.

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