Workers in Towson, Maryland were the first to gain formal recognition as many Apple stores throughout the country struggled to unionise. The union won 65 yes votes and 33 negative votes out of 110 eligible employees.
This historic triumph comes after Apple made a concerted attempt to keep its retail workers from unionising. Last month, the company’s vice president of people and retail, Deirdre O’Brien, delivered a video to 58,000 retail employees, warning them about the risks of unionising. O’Brien repeated anti-union talking points, stating that establishing a union between Apple and its employees would make it more difficult to implement change in stores — despite the fact that workers do not feel that significant change is possible without a legally recognised bargaining unit.
The organisers of an Atlanta shop that was meant to be the first to hold a union election withdrew their proposal, stating that Apple was using unlawful union-busting techniques including hosting “captive audience” meetings. The Cumberland Mall business in Atlanta had 70 per cent of its about 100 employees sign union authorisation cards at the time they filed for an election, showing their desire to move forward. Apple has since increased retail compensation to a minimum of $22 per hour, up from $20 previously.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) has decided to unionise the Maryland store, which will be known as the Coalition of Organised Retail Employees (CORE). When they first announced their desire to unionise, they wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
The letter stated, “We have come together as a union out of a profound love of our position as workers inside the firm and out of compassion for the company itself.” “To be clear, the decision to create a union is about us as workers having access to rights we do not have now.”
These Towson employees may start a campaign for other retail outlets to follow their lead as the country’s first Apple shop to unionise. According to the New York Times, over two dozen Apple stores, including the one in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, have shown interest in organising.
Apple is collaborating with Littler Mendelson, the same law firm that is sponsoring Starbucks’ anti-union campaign, to combat the rising demand for retail unions. In December, a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, became the company’s first coffee shop to unionise. After seven months, 158 stores from 30 states had joined the organisation.