Union Raises Objections to Future Calif. Store

January 22, 2014

Despite the amazing architecture and spectacular interior design, there are critics of the future San Francisco 2 (N. Calif.) Apple retail store, including a labor union that’s already at odds with Apple over its choice of security services and its future headquarters building. In a 27-page letter to the city planning department, the Service Employees International Union — United Service Workers West (SEIU) doesn’t explain precisely why a labor union—usually concerned with wage and benefit issues—is focused on the planning process for a retail store. And in an email, a union spokesperson declined to provide an explanation beyond the text of the letter. The San Francisco Apple store will replace and expand the overcrowded two-level store that opened in 2004. Apple’s architects are now guiding the project through the city’s planning process, including several public hearings and private reviews. In the letter, attorneys for SEIU raised objections to the future store for a wide range of reasons. Primarily, the group objects to any attempt to bypass or provide exemptions for the required environmental reviews, calling the process “rushed.” But SEIU also raised issues of floor area ratios, window bird strikes and air quality during and after construction. They also raised the issue of a rooftop observation deck, required for the existing Levis store building but never constructed. “This is a key public amenity, and it must not continue to be ignored and discarded,” the union stated. Download (pdf) the union’s letter for many more details.

SEIU-USWW represents “property service workers” in California, including 8,500 security officers. It explains its interest in the San Francisco store project by saying that “many” of its workers reside in the city, and that it has an on-going advocacy project to challenge projects that, “would result in harmful environmental effects, or the violation of environmental laws.” The letter doesn’t make any direct link between the union’s members and the future store, such as any working there as security guards or other job positions.

The law firm that wrote the letter is based in nearby Oakland (Calif.), and specializes in environmental law for non-profit clients, including Moms for Clean Air, Heal the Bay and the Teamsters Joint Council 7.

Last year SEIU sent a similar letter (pdf) to the Cupertino (Calif.) city council, raising questions and objections to Apple’s headquarters project. Their objections in that case were focused on economic issues, including a living wage and “rising inequality” in Silicon Valley. The HQ project was later approved with few objections, and construction is now underway.

SEIU has also been waging a three-year war against the contract security firm employed by Apple, and it has a specific Web site for its project to unionize that company’s workers. The union posted the graphic below on January 20th, Martin Luther King Jr. Day as part of its on-going unionization attempts. The graphic was linked to a Web page with a note to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

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