Mandatory Union Awareness Training at Apple

In an interesting intersection of two of my favourite areas (law and technology), Apple Insider reported last week that Apple recently announced that it was going to be conducting mandatory union awareness training to educate its employees on “how to deal” with unions. According to the article, the course is described by Apple as follows:

“This course is intended to provide managers with a practical understanding of how unions affect the workplace, how and why employees organize, and the legal do’s and don’ts of dealing with unions,” … “This is a mandatory class for all new managers, and is required biannually for all managers.”

There is no news if this program is coming to Canada. If they try, Apple’s mileage may vary as the laws in many of our provinces severly restrict an employer’s right to communicate with employees regarding unionization. There is however a debate raging before many labour tribunals as to how much that right can be restricted.

Does training like this have a place in Canada? Should it be allowed?


  1. Training of this type has no place in a democratic country that respects human rights. The right to unionize is a fundamental human right (contained in all three major international human rights documents- the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural rights.)
    Imagine if a company openly offered its managers training on how to prevent employees from exercising their right to equality (another fundamental human right) protected by Human Rights Code. We should feel the same outrage no matter what human right employers are attempting to deny their employees.

  2. Ah, but for some, Appleism is a religion and Jobs its prophet, that’s why it’s not it can do these things, no? As a religion, Apple is above Earthly trivialities such as human rights: render under Caesar, etc. If you don’t believe that Appleism is a religion (or at least a cult), its proponents missionaries, priests and acolytes, and many of its users seemingly TRUE BELIEVERS, read this message on this board.

    L.Ron, at least, had the grace to concede he planned to create a religion.

    (Full disclosure. I bought the top-end iPad I for my nephew. In my defence, it makes a very good mouse pad when turned over.)

  3. Gabriel Granatstein

    Mr. Davidson,

    I have to disagree with your comments. There are legitimate pros and cons to unionization. There are no legitimate pros to violating human rights. You are comparing apples and oranges.

    The laws protect the right to unionize in many circumstances. Employers can’t illegally interfere with that right. That doesn’t mean employers have to remain silent.

    Shouldn’t an employer be able to explain to employees how unions work and what happens if/when they sign a card?

  4. With regard to apples and oranges do you mean that human rights in the workplace as a right stop at the employer’s door? It seems more likely that you don’t accept the proposition that collective bargaining is a human right. If that is true, then you would agree with Engels’ quip that the workplace is more akin to army barracks.

    With regard to the U.S. labor relations climate I don’t think there can be a serious discussion on the bias and nature of the bias against collective bargaining in that country. The following is a two paragraph excerpt from the Dunlop Commission of 1994 and these members were not by any stretch of the imagination radicals in or of the U.S. labour movement.

    “The Commission is aware that there is an imbalance in this
    area. The ability of employers to present their views to
    employees is assured at the workplace. Employers have daily contact with employees and are free to express their views from the date of hire. Employers may distribute written
    material to their employees and post materials in the
    workplace. Employers also may require employee attendance at so called `captive audience’ meetings to hear the employer’s point of view. In addition, the employer may
    devote as much work time as it desires to supervisory
    activity advising employees about the employer’s position,
    including one-on-one or small group meetings between
    supervisors and employees. Indeed, supervisors who refuse
    to participate in the company’s campaign against union
    representation for the employees may be discharged for their refusal.

    By contrast, employees have little access to the union at
    work — the one place where employees naturally congregate. Union representatives are typically excluded from the worksite altogether and are all but uniformly excluded from the meetings held by the employer. Even non-working areas which are accessible to the general public — such as parking lots or cafeterias — are off-limits to the union
    organizer.” Pp. 47-48

    Commission on the Future of Worker-Management Relations

    The Dunlop Commission on the Future of
    Worker-Management Relations – Final Report
    U.S. Commission on the Future of Worker-Management Relations (December 1994)

  5. I see nothing in the text posted from Apple that suggests any intention of the company to interfere with legitimate union organizing or post-certification activity. Apple wants to be sure that its managers know the legal rights of both management and labour, so they don’t infringe the law. What is so nefarious about that? Would people prefer that managers not be trained in what they can legally do and legally not do?

  6. Unfortunately the columnist and Cheifetz take a very narrow approach to the rights of employees. I would have thought that a pro forma approach would now have been tossed into the garbage bin of history. Apple (not unique in the high-tech industry) and the stories of Jobs on the job behaviour, the off-shoring of all machine production to the sweatshops in south-east asia, etc. are all indicators to a person with a modicum of experience with the labour side of organizing unions attesting to a real tough organization that would be willing to fight employees trying to organize. The press release, or just the knowledge, that there are “training” sessions for management on what to say or not say about unions, is comparable to the big dog walking around and marking his territory – letting employees know, within and without, that this will remain a union free shop. The very subtle management behaviour is akin to fine subtle discriminatory behaviour in other areas. But anyway there is a trend, perhaps only outside of the U.S. and increasingly Canada, in which human rights encompass collective bargaining rights. While North America, Mexico excluded, seems to regress, the rest of the world seems to progress.

  7. I believe every person,even aliens (except in Ontario where aliens apparently aren’t persons, even if corporations are) has the inalienable right right to work as an indentured wage slave for inadequate wages in sweatshop conditions in a store on a Rodeo Drive equivalent, so he or she can get a priceless autograph from a celebrity, or an Quebec NDP MP playing hookey from school … ah … Parliament.

    And, so he or she can avoid having to having to share his or her meager lunch with union organizers who can’t afford to shop there anyway.

    I also believe in using my last name when I cast aspersions, and even when I don’t, not hiding behind a screen name, so that the reader can judge whether the New Yorker cartoon applies or not.

    I gather you don’t.


  8. Apologies to Chefeitz. Was using name as we ordinarily use this shortcut for the expression of ideas: Hayekian, Randian, Malthusian, Red Brigade, etc. Will stick to subject matter. So, what I meant to say was that there is a pseudo- balanced view, which counterposes a lunatic right wing against a lunatic left wing, with a center view holding that the basic tenets of an enlightened right wing are balanced and from this vantage point (center) all evaluation takes place. This is a form presentation which is still referred to as a strawman reasoning. In other words, set up a lunatic wing and demolish. These “balanced” views are one of the targets of the labour and OWS movement on a wide of range of issues: unionizing, bombing Iran, climate change, war in Libya, Af-Pak war, Iraq war; F35 manned drones, and as well: unemployment, pollution, disintegration of democracy, and quite a number of other issues, or files, for those hip to the jargon of politicos.

    With regard to anonymity I don’t think an evaluation of anonymous publications, books, articles, etc. over the centuries supports your position. The best of the past writers, publishing anonymously for example as Swift and others have done, are regarded as a high point of political writing and English literature. And this is true for other languages and countries. The anonymous writers are clearly of no consequence, rather it is the ideas which are threatening to the status quo.

  9. Just want to second John G up there. This kind of training, in my experience, is normal and important. Note that it is for managers. Managers should know how to manage their unionized employees. As a manager in a unionized environment, it is critical to know how to deal with unions. Not how to get around them or undermine them but what their role is as a partner in the workplace. For example, in a unionized workplace the union has a critical role in the disciplinary process. If the manager does not know when to, for example, advise their employee that they have a right to have a shop steward present at a meeting then not only is the employee unrepresented but the process gets all screwed up and you get perverse outcomes at the end. Managers also need to know things such as what kinds of services they can contract out to avoid getting grieved by the union for taking work away from the bargaining unit. The purpose is to prevent grievances not by finding loopholes but rather to prevent grievances by preventing grievable behaviour on the part of managers. Surely the union wants that too!

  10. Again, you missed my points.

    1. You (whoever you are) have no valid basis for assuming anything about Mr. Granatstein’s views, or my views, on human rights and labour issues, from his post which began this thread and my description of Appleism as a religion.

    2. The once-upon-a-time need for anonymity justification is both trite and not responsive to anything I wrote.

    I’ve made my point, on the issues between us, and see no purpose in continuing this discussion.