Apple says employees’ right to discuss pay has not been infringed on

Apple has pushed back against an allegation by a labor union that it shuts down discussion among its employees of pay discrepancies, profit sharing and bonuses.

The letter from Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook to Apple workers on Friday included a copy of an internal email that indicated the company believes employees have a right to talk about pay and the company’s obligations as a corporate entity. The “opening” letter marked the first time Apple has released an employee-memo that did not directly contain a reference to Apple’s brands, public criticism of President Trump or some other Trump-related subject.

The letter acknowledged criticism from the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel that the company is violating federal labor law by forbidding discussion of pay and benefits.

Apple’s next move will be to submit comments to the NLRB, which opened a case against the company in March of last year, and then provide a full reply. The judge in the case has said the case can go forward. In Friday’s letter, Cook said Apple will respond through the hearing process, which will be a formality unless Apple wins in its broader arguments.

“We respect our employees’ right to share with each other what they value about Apple and the value they place on working with our team,” Cook wrote in the letter. “To us, those values — the key to how we’ve led, developed and run the company — are non-negotiable.”

A representative for the labor board declined to comment on Apple’s specific letter, but a National Labor Relations Board spokeswoman, Keiana Owens, said the board is continuing its investigation.

Apple has long defended itself on the grounds that its employees “are rewarded for their productivity,” as Cook wrote.

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