Apple is facing a historic move by some of its retail staff to form a trade union, it has been reported this week.

CNN reported that voting has begun on Wednesday for Apple staff at the retail store in Towson, Maryland, which could potentially form the first trade union in one of the tech giant’s US retail outlets.

It seems that voting will take place in person at a vacant store in the Towson Town Centre, which is a shopping mall located near Baltimore that houses the Apple store, where workers are seeking to unionise.

Apple store Towson, Maryland

Union vote

Voting is to take place during select times on Wednesday through Saturday, according to a notice of election posted by the National Labor Relations Board.

The vote count is set to take place on Saturday evening.

And it seems that organisers are calling their union, the Apple Coalition of Organised Retail Employees, otherwise known as AppleCORE for short.

CNN says AppleCORE has gained support from the larger International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers trade union.

The AppleCORE union in an open letter addressed to CEO Tim Cook last month, reportedly stated the decision to form a union “is about us as workers gaining access to rights that we do not currently have.”

A worker-organiser who said he had been at the Towson store for seven years previously told the Washington Post that the unionisation bid is about having a seat at the table. “More money is nice, but it’s really about agency,” the worker reportedly told the Post.

In a statement to CNN Business, Apple emphasised the compensation and benefits it offers retail workers.

“We are fortunate to have incredible retail team members and we deeply value everything they bring to Apple,” the statement reportedly said.

“We are pleased to offer very strong compensation and benefits for full time and part time employees, including health care, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, annual stock grants and many other benefits.”

Union movements

This Maryland vote is not the union movement Apple is currently facing, with various pushes at other Apple stores including New York’s Grand Central Station and in Atlanta.

In April staff at Apple’s flagship Grand Central Terminal store in Manhattan took the first steps to organise a trade union.

The workers there began collecting signatures to file a petition to unionise.

Meanwhile organisers for a union vote at the Apple store in Atlanta withdrew their petition in April.

In the face of various union pushes at its retail stores, Apple said it would raise the minimum starting pay for hourly workers in the United States to $22 an hour – a 45 percent jump from 2018 levels – or higher based on the market.

Apple is not alone.

Other corporate giants in America that have been union free for decades, have embarked on forming trading unions.

This includes firms such as Amazon and Starbucks.

One of the main issues highlighted during the Coronavirus pandemic was the disparity between the compensation and perks of corporate staff members, compared to retail staff.

Retail staff were also less able to opt for any remote working options compared to their corporate brethren, exposing them to more risks from Covid-19.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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