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Apple Bans Felons from HQ Construction

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

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Worker advocates are turning up the heat on Apple in the wake of the tech giant's decision to bar convicted felons from construction work on its new campus in California.

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."

Apple2HQ
Rendering

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 95 signatures by Tuesday (April 7) 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 Tim 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 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.

Construction-AppleCampus2
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.

AppleHQ
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.

KevinYip
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; Project Management; Workers

Comment from William Gusnard, (4/8/2015, 11:05 AM)

So this is the same Tim Cook who will not do business in Indiana because of their gays laws, yet does work overseas with counties who murder homosexuals. THis guy i8s one of the biggest hipocrits out there. Why don't we stop doing business with Apple. People change and they need a new start in life. If they did the time for the crime, then let them do the work that they are capable of to become self-sustianing honest individuals. Oh yeah, liberals like to keep people unemployeed so that they owe the government.


Comment from Sarah Geary, (4/9/2015, 10:43 AM)

Although this is an interesting perspective to introduce, I doubt Tim Cook's sexual preference has anything to do with his decision, and it is nothing relevant this article. I criticize the author for including his or her attacks on Tim Cook without making strong ties to the purposeful content of the article. A focus on the actual issue would have been more helpful, as I got lost in the middle of this article trying to figure out the point of bringing up sexual preference and the State of Indiana's foot faults.


Comment from David Cerchie, (4/9/2015, 1:34 PM)

This may be one of the most misleading articles I've seen published by TPC. There are so many conflicting statements in the article that it is impossible to determine how it supports any particular perspective. The initial statement that Apple seeks to bar convicted FELONS, is offset with the last segment describing the plight of a worker who ostensibly entered a "no contest" plea to what sounds like a misdemeanor charge of simple battery. If what is stated is the whole story then why would anyone plead no contest if the result was to become a felony conviction. I suspect there is more to this story than was reported here for effect. And why should a security sensitive organization be excoriated for setting guidelines intended to protect its security. If this were a Federal Reserve Bank building project or a NSA construction project I dare say there might be some qualification processes for the workers. Are we as a society now to become apologists for considering the criminal actions of individuals to be a basis for discrimination? If a convicted felon is truly rehabilitated then they should be prepared for some sort of continuing effects from their prior bad acts.


Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/10/2015, 8:27 AM)

David, I disagree. If a convicted felon has served his time (and probation/parole) - they should be effectively cleared and allowed to interact normally with society. If they are still a threat, they should still be in prison or under close monitoring.


Comment from David Cerchie, (4/10/2015, 10:10 AM)

Tom I see a significant difference between the "penal" aspects of incarceration and the "rehabilitative" aspects. In a perfect world we would expect these two aspects to be absolutely coordinated to produce the desired outcome of reformation of the individual. But unfortunately there is significant evidence suggesting this is not the case. I agree that there should be some bright line threshold that would define complete change of an individual's nature, but the question is whether we want to bet the most sensitive aspects of our business or lives on the current thresholds.


Comment from jo alen, (4/10/2015, 8:08 PM)

I could understand barring felons from final interior work when sensitive systems and equipment are installed, however makes no sense when basic civil construction is performed, I.e. excavation, forms, rebar, storm piping, concrete placement, structural steel, etc.


Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/13/2015, 8:24 AM)

David - constructing a fancy office building isn't exactly getting into Apple's most sensitive aspects. Particularly at this stage of construction where they're just building the shell.


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