Apple store unionizes in US first — Analysis

The employees of Towson Town center Apple in Maryland have voted for unionization. They formed the first US union made up of Apple workers after the Saturday vote. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers was formed with 33 votes for and 65 against.

CORE Apple, a coalition of organized retail employees, was formed by employee organizers who claimed they wanted more rights to pay, set hours, fairness and safety. Robert Martinez Jr., president of the parent union, called on Apple CEO Tim Cook to “Respect election results, and speed-track the signing of a dedicated contract. [International Association of Machinists]CORE Apple workers in Towson” 

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In a letter to the company last month, employees declared they were not trying to “Management should be able to manage conflict” but sought to unionize “We do this because we are deeply passionate about our work and care for the company..” 

Safety concerns related to Covid-19 and financial issues, such as inflation-related compensation, have been cited by workers as the reasons for unionization. 

Similar to its fellow tech giants Amazon and Tesla, Apple has been hostile to unionization efforts among its ranks and has hired anti-union lawyers in an effort to quash such initiatives. The company has reportedly distributed anti-union talking points to managers faced with mutinous employees, reminding them that Apple offers strong compensation and benefits, including a base pay rate of $20 per hour, and “Flexibility” management insists will be lost if workers unionize.

Store and corporate leadership have also been marshaled to lecture employees on the evils of unionizing at meetings which workers were required to attend, a controversial but legal tactic known as ‘captive audience meetings.’

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Apple was successful in scuppering a similar organizing effort at an Atlanta store, where organizers who had initially hoped to vote on unionizing in May claimed the company’s behavior made it impossible to hold a fair election. Workers elsewhere, including the company’s World Trade Center store in New York City, have complained that, in addition to holding captive audience meetings, management had also engaged in illegal behaviors such as interrogating employees about union organizing and banning the posting of union flyers.

Further unionization efforts are underway at the Apple store in New York City’s Grand Central Station and an Apple store in Louisville, Kentucky.

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