Retailers are continuing to face challenges from organized labor after the Communications Workers of America (CWA) filed two unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on behalf of Apple retail workers, including those at a Kansas City store who the union claims were fired for their organizing activities. Additionally, Chipotle has reportedly agreed to pay $240,000 to former employees of an Augusta, Maine, location as part of a settlement for closing the restaurant when workers tried to unionize, according to CNBC.
The charges claim that Apple illegally fired five workers at the Kansas City store, with some of them forced to sign a “Release of All Claims” agreement in exchange for a severance package. The union noted that a recent NLRB ruling stated that employers cannot require broad severance agreements that prevent former employees from speaking out against alleged union-busting.
The CWA also filed charges that allege Apple workers in a Houston store were individually interrogated regarding their support of the union and promised improved working conditions if they declined to support it. They also were allegedly threatened with worse working conditions if they continued to organize and being disciplined for their support.
Chipotle Settles While Denying Wrongdoing
Chipotle has denied wrongdoing at the Augusta location in its own settlement with the NLRB and the Chipotle United union. However, the NLRB found that the company had violated federal labor law when it closed the restaurant one month after workers filed a petition to unionize, as well as prevented the organizers from being hired at other locations in Maine.
“We settled this case not because we did anything wrong, but because the time, energy and cost to litigate would have far outweighed the settlement agreement,” said Laurie Schalow, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Chipotle in a statement.
The settlement will offer affected employees between $5,800 and $21,000, depending on their average hours, pay rate and length of their tenure. The workers also will have the option to be put on a preferential hiring list for other Maine locations for one year. Additionally, 40 stores in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts will have notices posted saying Chipotle won’t close stores or discriminate based on union support.
Labor disputes are expected to continue brewing in the near future. One major development will be the results of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s testimony before a Senate panel regarding his company’s reported anti-union behavior, including plans to offer improved benefits to non-unionized stores, on March 29.