Apple employees at a Baltimore-area store have voted to unionize, making it the first of the company’s 270-plus stores in the United States to join a trend in labor organizing sweeping through retailers, restaurants and tech companies.
The result, announced on Saturday by the National Labor Relations Board, provides a foothold for a budding movement among Apple retail employees who want a greater voice over wages and Covid-19 policies. Employees of more than two dozen Apple stores have expressed interest in unionizing in recent months, union leaders say.
In the election, 65 employees at Apple’s store in Towson, Md., voted in favor of being represented by the union, known as the Apple Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, while 33 voted against. It will be part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, an industrial trade union that represents over 300,000 employees.
Tyra Reeder, a technical specialist who has worked at the Towson store a little over six months, said that she was “elated” with the outcome and that she hoped a union would help increase workers’ compensation; stabilize the store’s scheduling, which has been strained by recent Covid-19 cases; and make it easier for workers to advance within the company.
“We love our jobs. We just want to see them do better,” Ms. Reeder said.
The outcome is a blow to Apple’s campaign to blunt union drives by arguing that it pays more than many retailers and provides an array of benefits, including health care and stock grants. Last month, it increased starting wages for retail employees to $22 an hour, from $20, and released a video of Deirdre O’Brien, who leads Apple retail, cautioning employees that joining a union could hurt the company’s business.
Apple declined to comment.Employees in Towson said in a video ahead of the union vote that Apple’s anti-union campaign there was “nasty” and included management telling workers that unions once prohibited Black employees from joining their ranks. In the weeks ahead of the vote, Ms. O’Brien visited the store and thanked everyone for their hard work.
Soon after, employees said their managers began encouraging staff to air their concerns in meetings and help come up with solutions to their grievances. They also started to pull employees into one-on-one meetings where managers highlighted the cost of union dues, said Eric Brown, a Towson employee active in the union effort.
I don’t think these companies really get that the anti-union meetings are likely to backfire on workers with the kind of cultural capital of those who work at a place like this. I mean, claims that a union will hurt the business of freaking Apple is absolutely laughable. And a lot of the workers will laugh at it.
Now, getting a contract is a whole other deal. But congrats to the workers and great job by the IAM to put the resources into this. Now let’s get another 50 or so stores organized and we can really force Apple into a contract.