Atlanta Apple Store Workers Are the First to Formally Seek a Union

Employees of the Apple Store in Atlanta filed an application to hold a union election on Wednesday. If successful, workers at Apple retail stores in the United States could form the first union.

The move follows a recent trend of service-sector consolidation in which unions have won elections at Starbucks, Amazon and REI locations.

The workers hope to join the American Communication Workers, which represents workers in companies such as AT&T Mobility and Verizon, and has pushed the tech sector in an organized way in recent years.

The union says about 100 workers at the store – in Cumberland Mall, Northwest Atlanta – are eligible to vote, including vendors and repair technicians, and more than 70 percent of them have signed authorization cards showing their support.

In a statement, the union said Apple, like other tech employers, effectively created a tiered workforce that denied retail workers the benefits, benefits and honors workers received in its corporate offices.

Workers said they prefer to work at Apple but sometimes felt they were treated like second-class employees. “We want the same as what the corporate actually gets,” said Sidney Rhodes, an employee of the store who is involved in the union campaign.

Ms. Rhodes, who has worked at Apple for four years, said she and many of her colleagues hoped to continue working for Apple for years to come, but it was often unclear how they would progress in the company. “Another reason why we are working towards this union is that there is a more explicit and concise way of development, especially internally,” she added.

Apple said the company offered strong benefits, including health care coverage, tuition reimbursement and paid family leave, and a minimum wage of $ 20 per hour for retail workers.

“We are fortunate to have members of the incredible retail team, and we deeply appreciate everything they bring to Apple,” he said, but declined to comment on the union’s efforts. The company will not say whether it will voluntarily recognize the union.

Officials from the National Labor Relations Board will further determine whether there is enough interest among workers to hold elections – the bar is officially 30 percent – and set the conditions for a possible vote. Both the union and the employer will have the opportunity to weigh in on the details, including the universe of eligible employees to participate and whether the vote should be by post or in person.

Other unions, most notably Workers United, an affiliate of the Giant Service Employees International Union, which has spearheaded a planning campaign at Starbucks, have also sought to form a union of Apple retail workers, numbering in the thousands in the United States.

Workers at the Apple Store at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal have begun signing authorization cards that could lead to filing for a union vote that would allow them to join Workers United. The move was reported by the Washington Post over the weekend.

Activism and labor planning at Apple have been going on since last summer, when dissatisfaction with the company’s plans to return employees to office turned into a widespread movement called #AppleToo. The movement’s aim was to describe workplace problems such as harassment, unequal pay, and the culture of secrecy prevailing in the company.

“Apple workers in every line of business and around the world are using their voices to demand better treatment,” Janneke Parrish, one of the #AppleToo leaders, said of the union’s effort. Ms. Parish said Apple fired her in retaliation for her planning. “I am just happy to see workers take this big step to stand up for their rights,” she said. Apple disputed Ms. Allegations of parish.

The #AppleToo movement includes retailers who have said throughout the epidemic that Apple has not done enough to protect them from the coronavirus.

Complaints from retail workers escalated late last year when the Omicron variant spread rapidly across the country and stores could no longer operate as at least 20 Apple stores were infected as a precaution or as many of their workers were infected. On Christmas Eve, several dozen Apple workers quit their jobs to demand better pay and better working conditions.

Ms. Rhodes said efforts at his store began fiercely last fall, and his co-workers got encouragement from union campaigns at companies like Starbucks and Amazon.

In addition to its efforts at Apple, the Communication Workers Union has had a presence at Google in recent years, helping workers form so-called unity integration or minority unions that enable them to take action without holding union elections and obtaining certification from the Labor Board. . Companies do not have to deal with minority unions, as they do with more formal unions.

The union recently relocated to Kansas City, Mo. Also won a vote to represent about a dozen retail employees in Google Fiber stores, which are formally employed by Google contractors. It wants to represent the dozens of Wisconsin-based quality assurance workers at video-game maker Activision Blizzard, which Microsoft is acquiring, pending regulatory approval.

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