Apple employees at a Baltimore-area store have voted to unionize, making it the first of the company’s 270-plus stores to join the United States in a trend of sweeping labor 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 greater voice over wages and Covid-19 policies. 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, as the Apple Coalition’s 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.
“I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store at Towson for this historic victory,” Robert Martinez Jr., president of IAM International, said in a statement. “They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election.
The result is a blow to Apple’s campaign to blunt union drives by arguing that it pays more retailers and provides an array of benefits, including health care and stock grants. Last month, it was increasing 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 a union could hurt the company’s business.
Employees in Towson said in a video ahead of the union that Apple’s anti-union campaign was “nasty” and included management telling workers that unions were once banned from joining black employees. 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.
The vote levels the score between Apple and the organizers. Earlier this month, employees at a store in Atlanta abandoned a planned election when the union fizzled out after Apple’s moves to increase wages and highlight its benefits. The union organizers in Atlanta have filed a formal charge with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Apple of requiring workers to listen to anti-union messages during mandatory meetings. The board has not yet determined if the charge has merit.
At Starbucks, one of the companies where organizers have gained the momentum, employees are credited with organizing a store in Buffalo to help other stores file for union elections. Since that vote in December, more than 150 of the company’s roughly 9,000 corporate-owned stores in the US have voted to unionize, according to the NLRB
“Workers gain interest and courage if workers prevail elsewhere,” said William Gould, a law professor at Stanford University and author of “For Labor to Build Upon: Wars, Depression and Pandemic.” “Many watch to see: Can workers succeed? Will they band together? If the answer is affirmative, it will encourage other workers to take a step toward collective bargaining. “
Apple employees are also organizing at the Grand Central Terminal store in New York and a store in Louisville, Ky. Those stores are building support before they ask for an election. Organizers in Atlanta have said they plan to revise their election in the future.