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: Apple will examine commitment to workers’ rights after shareholder push

Apple Inc. is promising to assess its policies around workers’ rights, including freedom of association and collective bargaining, after a push from shareholders.

The tech giant, which had been facing a shareholder resolution on the issue because of accusations it is engaging in union-busting, said in its proxy filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday that it plans to conduct the assessment by the end of the year.

“At Apple
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we have long been committed to respecting human rights,” the company’s proxy says.

The shareholders who had submitted a resolution in September had asked for an independent assessment, and withdrew it after talks with the company.

Apple’s mention of the issue in its proxy does not include the word “independent,” though the coalition of shareholders said Friday that is what they expect. The company’s language: “We will conduct an assessment on Apple’s efforts to comply with its Human Rights Policy.”

The coalition of investors, which includes New York City Retirement Systems, represents approximately 53 million shares valued at $7 billion of Apple holdings, according to a spokeswoman for the New York City Comptroller’s Office.

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander said in a statement that he hopes the company “will heed the findings of the third-party assessment and take concrete steps to adopt a genuine neutrality commitment that respects the rights of its workers.” 

An Apple spokesman did not return a request for comment.

Apple has been hit with various National Labor Relations Board complaints over its behavior related to attempted organizing at its store, though this week the company reportedly began negotiating with workers at its first unionized store in Towson, Md.

The shareholder resolutions that investors will vote on, all of which the company opposes, according to the proxy:

A civil rights and nondiscrimination audit. (Apple said a civil rights audit is under way, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Shareholders passed a proposal for such an audit last year.)

An annual report to shareholders on the company’s dependence on “Communist China.”

A policy that the board or a member will meet within three months with shareholders whose resolution passes with a majority vote by non-insiders.

A report on median pay gaps across race and gender.

Amending proxy access for shareholder nominations to 20% of the directors then serving or two, whichever is greater.

Apple’s annual shareholder meeting will be held March 10.

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