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 New York Times reported.
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.
According to The New York Times, 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.
CNBC reported that the vote is a defeat for Apple, which has opposed unionization efforts, and could energize workers at the company’s other retail locations to move forward with organizing.
According to CNBC, The National Labor Relations Board still needs to certify the votes. That could take around a week. Apple is required to bargain with the union over working conditions after the vote is certified, according to the NLRB.
CNBC also noted that Apple is one of the most profitable companies in the world. It reported over $365 billion in global sales in 2021, and says its retail employees in the U.S. make at least $22 per hour.
TechCrunch reported that this historic victory comes after concentrated efforts from Apple to discourage its retail workers from unionizing. Last month, the trillion-dollar company’s vice president of people and retail Deirdre O’Brian sent a video to 58,000 retail staff, warning them about the perceived drawbacks of unionizing.
According to TechCrunch, O’Brian reiterated anti-union talking points, stating that it would be more difficult to enact change in stores with a union standing between Apple and employees – but workers don’t think that meaningful change is possible without having a formally recognized bargaining unit.
TechCrunch also noted that the Apple store in Maryland will become unionized through the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and are calling themselves the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE). When they first announced their intent to unionize, they wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
The New York Times reported that at Starbucks, one of the companies where organizers have gained the most momentum, employees credited a vote to organize at a store in Buffalo with helping to spur other stores to file for union elections. Since that vote in December, more than 150 of the company’s roughly 9,000 corporate-owned stores in the U.S. have voted to unionize, according to the N.L.R.B.
Personally, I’m in favor of unionizing. I think that workers, who aren’t being treated well at their place of employment, should push to form a union. In some cases, the union is the only thing that can make things better for the workers – especially in companies that are strongly anti-union.