Apple's VP of people talks down benefits of unions in a leaked internal video

Apple Store Fifth Avenue New York
Apple Store Fifth Avenue New York (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Apple vice president of people and retail Deirdre O'Brien has appeared on a leaked video discussing retail employee unionization efforts.
  • O'Brien appears to be trying to dissuade employees from backing proposals to unionize.
  • Multiple Apple Stores are in the process of unionizing.

Amid ongoing efforts by Apple Store employees to unionize, vice president of people and retail Deirdre O'Brien has appeared in a leaked internal video in which she appears to be trying to dissuade employees from doing so.

The video, which appears to have been leaked to multiple outlets including The Verge and Vice, includes O'Brien repeatedly speaking about what a unionized workforce could lose, rather than gain — often saying that she is "worried" about what it would mean for the way Apple and its retail employees work together.

From Vice's report:

O'Brien, sitting in a wood-paneled room with a potted orchid and framed photos of Apple's corporate campus, goes on to use other standard anti-union talking points favored by employers looking to crush unionization efforts among their workforce. "I'm worried about what it would mean to put another organization in the middle of our relationship, an organization that does not have a deep understanding of Apple or our business," O'Brien continued. "And most importantly, one that I do not believe shares our commitment to you."

Vice also shared a YouTube video that contains the audio from the video — the actual video wasn't shared because it contained identifying markers, likely to prevent such leaks.

O'Brien goes on to suggest that unions could actually make things worse for employees, rather than better, preventing the company from improving conditions because it would be hampered by rules.

In the video, O'Brien also suggests that a union would make it more difficult for Apple to work on improving conditions for its retail workers. "Apple moves incredibly fast," she says. "And I worry that, because the union would bring its own legally mandated rules that would determine how we work through issues, it could make it harder for us to act swiftly to address things that you raise."

Predictably, the response hasn't been a positive one. One Apple retailer worker said that the video "turned my stomach" — Apple has so far declined to comment on the video.

Today's leak comes as multiple Apple Stores work to unionize, with Kentucky being the latest to announce an effort to do so.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.