Employees at an Apple store in Maryland have made it the first of any of the Mac-maker’s retail locations to vote in favor of joining a union. Several other such stores are preparing to hold their own votes. Meanwhile, Apple is trying to discourage any efforts by its employees to unionize.
It’s not clear how all this will affect users of Apple devices.
A historic vote for Apple store union
Employees at almost 150 Starbucks locations have unionized in just the past few months. Apple employees have clearly been paying attention, and interest in joining unions has grown as a way of getting paid more as inflation drives up the cost of living.
Employees in Towson, Maryland – a suburb of Baltimore – are the first to make the jump. They voted 65-to-33 to form the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees and join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
“I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. in a press release Saturday. “They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election. This victory shows the growing demand for unions at Apple stores and different industries across our nation.”
President Joe Biden also applauded the vote. “I am proud of them,” he told Reuters and other reporters on Monday. “Workers have a right to determine under what condition they are going to work or not work.”
Other Apple stores also considering unions
Employees at Apple Towson Town Center aren’t alone in wanting a union. Workers at the locations in New York’s Grand Central Terminal and World Trade Center are also thinking of joining. They are working with Communications Workers of America.
Add stores in Louisville, KY and Nashville, TN to the list exploring collective bargaining.
Apple is pushing back
Apple is reportedly actively attempting to prevent such efforts. That includes an anti-union video sent to employees by Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s SVP of retail and human resources.
“I worry about what it would mean to put another organization in the middle of our relationship,” O’Brien said in the video. “An organization that does not have a deep understanding of Apple or our business. And most importantly one that I do not believe shares our commitment to you.”
The company was apparently successful in Georgia: Employees at an Apple store in Atlanta canceled their union vote. The CWA claimed management intimidated the workers.
But there’s been a carrot along with the stick. Apple is already raising hourly pay, quite possibly as a way of lowering interested in collective bargaining.
Apple is a very profitable company, and increasing pay for its retail workers isn’t likely to change that. It has a lot of money to throw around and has spent billions on stock buybacks – far more than it’s going to put into hourly employee raises, union or no union.
Last year Apple spent $85 billion buying its own stock, which works out to about $500,000 for every one of its employees.
Meanwhile Apple Store workers are making about $46,000 a yearhttps://t.co/2Eb3iX0CFo
— Christopher Mims (@mims) June 20, 2022
And if unions lead to better paid retail employees who are more satisfied with their jobs, then anyone visiting an Apple store is more likely to have a pleasant buying experience.
Note: This article was updated to include President Biden’s comment on the union vote.