Apple Store Staff Vote To Form Company’s First US Retail Union

Apple Store staff at a shopping mall in Towson, Maryland, vote to form Apple’s first US retail union amidst broader unionisation trend at corporate giants

Staff at an Apple Store in Maryland have voted to form Apple’s first retail union in the United States.

The move is part of a broader trend in the country in recent months that has seen unions established at corporate giants such as Amazon and Starbucks.

A vote at the Apple Store in Towson, near Baltimore, passed the measure by 65 to 33 with about one dozen abstentions.

The Towson store is the third to launch a union drive this year, but the first to successfully hold a vote.

Staff at Towson Apple Store following vote. Image credit: IAM
Staff at Towson Apple Store following the vote. Image credit: IAM

Union drive

Stores in New York and Atlanta have also moved toward organising unions, but the Atlanta store delayed its vote, alleging anti-union activity by Apple.

In the US a company can either voluntarily recognise a union, or staff can gather signatures from at least 30 percent of staff to trigger a formal election by the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB).

Apple operates 270 stores in the US and union leaders say employees at more than two dozen of them have expressed an interest in unionising in recent months.

Staff at the Baltimore location said they want a stronger say in issues such as wages and policies relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

They said in a statement they have “the support of a solid majority of our coworkers” and were not looking to “go against or create conflict with our management”.

AppleCore

They voted to join the Apple Coalition of Organised Retail Employees, or AppleCore, which is to be part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), a major industrial union representing more than 300,000 employees.

IAM International president Robert Martinez said the Towson employees had displayed “courage” in achieving the “historic victory”.

“They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election,” he said.

In May the Towson staff and IAM sent an open letter to Apple chief executive Tim Cook informing him they were organising AppleCore in order to gain “access to rights we do not currently have” and asking Apple “to pledge not to use your resources to engage in an anti-union campaign”.

Apple in a statement reiterated its response to the earlier petition in Atlanta.

‘Strong compensation’

“We are pleased to offer very strong compensation and benefits for full time and part time employees, including healthcare, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, annual stock grants and many other benefits,” the company said. In an email it said it had nothing further to add.

The company last month increased starting wages for retail employees from $20 (£16) to $22 per hour and released a video statement by head of retail Deirdre O’Brien cautioning employees that unionisation could hurt the company’s business.

The company, valued at about $2.1tn, reported a record $97.3bn in revenue in its second fiscal quarter, up 9 percent year-on-year.

In December a successful campaign in New York resulted in Starbucks employees forming their first union at the chain in decades, and sparked similar drives across many other locations.

Amazon workers at a New York warehouse in April voted to form the company’s first union, a result the firm is disputing.