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Apple Bars Offenders from Construction

Thursday, April 9, 2015

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The world's largest company, led by a gay chief executive vocal about discrimination, is suddenly on the defensive over its decision to bar convicted felons from construction work on its $5 billion new campus.

Worker advocates have been turning up the heat on Apple after the decision became public.

General contractor DPR Construction ordered several workers off the massive job site in Cupertino, CA, in January because of their felony convictions, Ironworkers Local Union 377 in San Francisco told the San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported the story.

DPR told the union that workers with felony convictions do "not meet owner standards."


Apple's $5 billion, 175-acre "spaceship" campus is set to open next year in Cupertino, CA.

“Apple is always nervous about preserving its proprietary information, and yet I don’t know how this would affect that concern,” union local president Michael Theriault told the news outlet.

“Our folks put the wire in the reinforcing bar (of the building). It makes no sense to me.”

Petition Drive Underway

The union has launched an online petition drive to "stop the denial of employment to people who have restructured their lives and values to advance themselves and their families."

"The hiring policies adopted at the Apple Campus 2 project in Cupertino deny needed employment to skilled and committed building trades workers who are ex-offenders," says the petition, which calls the Apple project "one of the largest construction sites in the country."

The technology giant's plans call for demolishing 2.65 million square feet of existing buildings at the 175-acre site and building a 2.8 million-square-foot office, research and development center; 1,000-seat corporate auditorium; corporate fitness center; central plant; and up to 600,000 square feet in additional R&D space.

The $5 billion project is to be completed next year.

MichaelTheriault Tim Cook
San Francisco Building Trades Council (left); Ran Zag / CC BY-SA 2.0 (right)

Critics of Apple's policy, including Ironworkers Local Union 377 president Michael Theriault (left), note that Apple CEO Tim Cook recently publicly blasted Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act as discriminatory toward gays. Cook is openly gay.

The union calls employment "a key factor in preventing recidivism" and says construction "is one of the only lines of work where people with prior felony convictions can find a job."

The petition had 146 signatures by Wednesday (April 8) morning.

Double Standard?

The union has also approached the job's general contractor, DPR Construction, and has sent letters of complaint to California state Attorney General Kamala Harris and Apple CEO Time Cook. Neither DPR, Harris nor Cook have commented on the issue.

The union notes that Cook has been a leading critic of Indiana's new "Religious Freedom Restoration Act," which allows businesses to refuse service to anyone. Like many critics, Cook, who is openly gay, says the law will allow discrimination against gays under the guise of religious freedom.

"In this case, it looks like Apple is practicing its own form of discrimination, ..." opined The Mac Observer.

Background Checks

Construction workers are rarely subjected to background checks, although some states require them if the construction site is a school, CBS San Francisco reported. Prison construction also sometimes require the checks, other reports said.

CBS San Francisco

Individuals are not eligible to work construction at Apple's new headquarters if they have had a felony conviction within seven years, the local union says.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Apple's policies block people who have been convicted of felonies within the past seven years from working on the project.

Theriault told the news outlet that Apple's example could set a precedent for other large projects, "and a real possibility for rehabilitation becomes much more constricted," he said.

The union leader said that workers with felony convictions had worked on other high-profile technology construction projects for Google and Facebook, although those companies did not comment on his statement.

Legality Questioned

Several critics are weighing the legality of the ban.

As of Aug. 13, 2014, San Francisco housing providers, contractors and employers with 20 or more employees are operating under the Fair Chance Ordinance, which establishes procedures and restrictions for inquiring about and using conviction history information.

Joe Ravi / CC BY-SA 3.0

The main building of Apple Inc.'s new Campus 2 will be more than triple the size of its current headquarters (pictured) at Infinite Loop in Cupertino, CA.

San Francisco's ordinance follows the National Employment Law Project's fast-growing "Ban the Box" campaign, which aims to restrict consideration of an individual's criminal history in the hiring process.

The Project estimates that more than 700,000 people are released from U.S. prisons each year looking for work.

It also estimates that more than one in four American adults have arrest or conviction records "that often follow them throughout their lives."

Shedding the Past

Among those fired from the Apple site was Kevin Yip, 26, who pleaded no contest in 2008 to a battery charge stemming from a fight in which a man's jaw was broken. Yip said he was at the fight, but not in it.

Yip told the Chronicle that he had worked in construction for four years and had been earning $1,200 to $1,500 a week on the Apple job when he was let go because of his record.

CBS San Francisco

Kevin Yip, 26, says he was ordered off the Apple site in January because of his criminal record stemming from a fight. He and his 22-month-old son now live with his parents on unemployment.

"Now," the newspaper said, "he lives with his parents in San Bruno and supports his 22-month-old son, Dominic, with $450 a week in unemployment."

Said Yip: “It’s not fair for people’s pasts to come back ... and not be able to support their family and stay out of trouble."

"I believe people change. I believe I changed."


Tagged categories: Construction; Laws and litigation; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Workers

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