Apple Workers at Maryland Store Vote to Unionize, a First in the U.S.

Apple employees at the Baltimore-area store have voted for the union, the first of the company’s 270-plus stores in the United States to join the trend of labor planning by retailers, restaurants and tech companies.

The results, released Saturday by the National Labor Relations Board, provide a foothold for the emerging movement among Apple retail employees seeking more voice on wage and Covid-19 policies. Union leaders say more than two dozen Apple Store employees have shown interest in the union in recent months.

In the election, 65 employees at Apple’s store in Towson, Mo., voted in favor of being represented by the union, known as the Apple Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, while 33 voted against. It will be part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, an industrial trade union representing 300,000 workers.

Robert Martinez Jr., President of IAM International, said in a statement: “I applaud the courage shown by the CORE members at the Apple Store in Tosan to achieve this historic victory.” “They made a huge sacrifice for the thousands of Apple employees across the country who had their eyes on this election.”

Tyra Reader, a technical expert who has worked at the Towson store for just over six months, said she was “excited” by the result and hoped the union would help increase workers’ compensation; Stabilize store scheduling, strained by recent Covid-19 cases; And makes it easier for workers to move into the company.

“We like our job. We want to see them do better, “said Ms. Reader.

The result is a blow to Apple’s campaign that blunts Union Drive by arguing that it pays more than many retailers and offers a number of benefits, including health care and stock grants. Last month, it raised the starting pay for retail employees from $ 20 to $ 22 an hour, and released a video of Deirdre O’Brien, head of Apple Retail, warning employees that joining the union could hurt the company’s business.

Apple declined to comment.

Towson’s employees said in a video before the union vote that Apple’s anti-union campaign was “nasty” there and involved managing to tell workers that unions once barred black workers from joining their ranks. In the week following the polls, Ms. O’Brien visited the store and thanked everyone for their hard work.

Immediately, employees said their managers began encouraging staff to present their concerns and help resolve their complaints. They also began pulling employees into one-on-one meetings where managers highlighted the value of union debt, said Eric Brown, a Towson employee active in the union effort.

Earlier this month, employees at an Atlanta store dropped out of a planned election when support for the union faded as Apple sought to raise wages and highlight its benefits. Union organizers in Atlanta have filed a formal charge with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Apple of forcing workers to listen to anti-union messages during mandatory meetings. The board has not yet decided whether the charge is appropriate.

Ms. Reader said workers in Atlanta helped prepare union supporters at the Towson store to diffuse the company’s talking points. “We got a little insight into what was coming from the Atlanta store,” she said, citing the company’s suggestions that certain benefits could be lost during contract negotiations if employees unionize.

“For that to happen, most of us have to agree,” she said. Reader added. “I don’t think any of us would agree to lose something we love so much, which benefits us.”

At Starbucks, organizers credited one of the companies that gained the most momentum, with employees casting a vote to help encourage other stores to file union elections to organize in one store in Buffalo. According to the NLRB, since that vote in December, more than 150 of the company’s nearly 9,000 corporate-owned stores in the U.S. have voted to become unions.

Workers at the store who later unified reached out to Buffalo employees for advice on how to navigate the process.

William Gold, a law professor at Stanford University and author of “For Labor to Build Up: Wars, Depression and Pandemic”, said, “Workers gain interest and courage if they are prevalent elsewhere.” “A lot of people are looking to see: can workers succeed? Will they band together? If the answer is yes, it will encourage other workers to take a step towards collective bargaining.

The ability of workers to win contracts may depend on whether the campaign spreads to other stores. Union supporters at Starbucks say their biggest advantage over the company is the fact that they continue to win elections across the country.

Amazon workers who helped the Staten Island warehouse join the union in April also said they would benefit if more warehouses complied. The company is challenging the outcome of that vote before the Labor Board. With only one U.S. location formally unionized, the company could focus resources on opposing the union there.

Apple employees are also hosting at the Grand Central Terminal Store in New York and the store in Louisville, Ky. Those stores are building support before asking for elections. Organizers in Atlanta have said they plan to revive their election in the future.

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