The New York City Retirement Systems plus five other institutional investors announced Tuesday that Apple Inc. has agreed to conduct an independent assessment to determine if the company has followed its guidelines on workers' rights, including collective bargaining.
The agreement, which will be overseen by Apple's board of directors, was a response to a shareholder proposal — which was withdrawn Jan. 5 — filed by the institutional investors in September.
"Workers organizing at Apple for a collective voice in their workplace have reported strong pushback from the company — that flies in the face of Apple's stated human rights commitment to workers' freedom of association," New York City Comptroller Brad Lander said in joint news release with the other investors.
Mr. Lander is the fiduciary for the five pension funds within the $243.6 billion New York City system. The five pension funds owned $3.59 billion in Apple stock as of October.
"I'm grateful to Apple's board of directors for listening to the concerns of shareholders regarding worker rights and hope the company will heed the findings of the third-party assessment and take concrete steps to adopt a genuine commitment to non-interference that respects the rights of its workers," Mr. Lander said.
Apple will publicize the workers' rights report by the end of this year, the news release said.
An Apple representative did not respond to a request for comment.
Apple filed on Jan. 12 with the SEC a proxy statement for the company's March 10 annual meeting describing the workers' rights review. "We plan to conduct an assessment on Apple's efforts to comply with its Human Rights Policy as it relates to workers' freedom of association and collective bargaining rights in the United States by the end of calendar year 2023," the proxy statement said.
The New York City Retirement Systems was joined by Trillium ESG Global Equity Fund, SOC Investment Group, Parnassus Investments, Service Employees International Union Master Trust Pension Plan and the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (advised by Pensions & Investment Research Consultants),the news release said. The coalition of six investors represents approximately 53 million Apple shares valued at $7 billion, the news release said.
The investors also sent a letter to Apple's board on Jan. 17 asking that the workers' rights review "include non-U.S. operations and the company's supply chain."
Although much of the union organizing efforts has occurred domestically, "there are Apple worker organizing efforts occurring around the world, including in Australia and the U.K," the letter said. "Addressing these topics at a global level can add credibility to the assessment and address other potential areas of concern proactively and efficiently."