Apple employees at a store in the Baltimore area voted in favor of the union gathering, making it the first of more than 270 stores in the United States to join the trend of organizing work that is spreading through retailers, restaurants and technology companies.
The result, released by the National Labor Committee on Saturday, provides a foothold for a new movement among Apple’s retail employees who want a bigger voice in terms of wages and Covid-19 policy. Employees of more than two dozen Apple stores have expressed interest in unionization in recent months, union leaders say.
In the election, 65 employees at Apple’s store in Towson, MD, voted to represent the union, known as the Apple Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, while 33 voted against. It will be part of the International Association of Aviation Machinists and Workers, an industrial union representing over 300,000 employees.
“I applaud the courage shown by CORE members at the Apple Store in Towson to achieve this historic victory,” Robert Martinez Jr., President of IAM International, said in a statement. “They have made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who have their eyes on this election.
Thira Reeder, a technical specialist who has worked at the Towson store for just over six months, said she was “delighted” with the outcome and hoped the union would help increase workers’ compensation; stabilize the work schedule, which has been strained by the recent Covid-19 cases; and make it easier for workers to advance within the company.
“We love our job. We just want to see them better, “said Ms. Rider.
The result is a blow to Apple’s campaign to blunt union efforts by claiming to pay more than many vendors and provide a range of benefits, including health care and action grants. Last month, he raised starting salaries for retail employees to $ 22 an hour from $ 20 and released a video of Deirdre O’Brien, who runs Apple Retail, warning employees that joining the union could harm the company’s business.
Apple declined to comment.
Towson employees said in a video produced by More Perfect Union on the eve of the union vote that Apple’s anti-union campaign there was “nasty” and included that management told workers that unions had once banned black employees from joining their ranks. In the weeks before the vote, Ms. O’Brien visited the store and thanked everyone for their work.
Shortly afterwards, employees said their managers began encouraging employees to express their concerns at meetings and help find solutions to their complaints. They also began attracting employees to one-on-one meetings where managers highlighted the cost of union dues, said Eric Brown, a Towson employee active in union efforts.
Earlier this month, store employees in Atlanta gave up on planned elections when support for the union disappeared after Apple’s moves to raise wages and highlight the benefits it offers. Atlanta union organizers have filed a formal lawsuit with the National Labor Committee, accusing Apple of requiring workers to listen to anti-union messages during mandatory meetings. The board has not yet determined whether the accusation is justified.
Ms. Reeder said workers in Atlanta helped prepare union supporters at the Towson store to reduce the company’s talk topics. “From the store in Atlanta, we somehow got an insight into the things that are coming,” she said, citing the company’s suggestions that employees could lose certain benefits during contract negotiations if they join a union.
“For that to happen, most of us have to agree,” Ms Rider added. “I don’t think any of us would agree to lose something we love very much, which benefits us.
At Starbucks, one of the companies where the organizers gained the most momentum, employees attributed the vote to organizing at the Buffalo store and helped encourage other stores to apply for the union election. Since that vote in December, more than 150 of about 9,000 U.S.-owned stores have voted in favor of the union, according to the NLRB
Workers in the shops that later joined the union turned to Buffalo employees for advice on how to manage the process.
“Workers gain interest and courage if workers elsewhere prevail,” said William Gould, a law professor at Stanford University and author of “Building Work on: Wars, Depression and Pandemics.” “Many are looking to see: can workers succeed? Will they unite? If the answer is yes, it will encourage other workers to take a step towards collective bargaining. “
The ability of workers to win a contract may depend on whether the campaign will be extended to other stores. Proponents of the union at Starbucks said one of their biggest sources of influence on the company was the fact that they continue to win elections across the country.
Amazon workers who helped unite warehouses on Staten Island in April also said they would benefit if more warehouses followed suit. The company is challenging the outcome of that vote before the labor committee. With only one location in the U.S. formally unionized, the company can focus resources on countering the union there.
Apple employees are also organizing at the Grand Central Terminal store in New York and the store in Louisville, Kay. Those stores are building support before they call an election. Organizers in Atlanta have said they plan to revive their elections in the future.
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