After Starbucks and Amazon, it’s Apple’s turn to face unions. On Saturday, the employees of the Apple Store in Towson, in the suburbs of Baltimore (Maryland), voted to create a union. The first of its kind at Apple. The vote was clear: out of the hundred or so employees in the store, 65 voted for the creation of the union, affiliated with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), 33 voted against.
“I applaud the courage shown by the Towson Apple Store employees and this historic victory. They made a huge sacrifice for the thousands of Apple employees across the country who had their eyes on this election,” said IAM President Robert Martinez Jr. who called on Tim Cook to expedite negotiations on the employees’ demands. “This shows the growing demand for unions in Apple’s stores and in different industries across the country.”
Raises and benefits
At Towson, and other stores, there are complaints that they don’t have enough freedom in scheduling. Wage increases, recently announced by Apple (at $22 an hour, a 45% increase over 2018), reportedly don’t go fast enough and employee protections against Covid are insufficient.
“We are pleased to offer very strong compensation and benefits to our full- and part-time employees, including health care, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, stock and many other benefits,” Apple spokesman Josh Lipton had shared before the vote.
More votes to come
Employees at at least two other stores are trying to rally a union, one in New York, the other in Atlanta . In Georgia, however, the employees cancelled their planned vote. In their view, Apple’s “repeated violations of the National Labor Relations Act made it impossible to hold a free and fair election.” In Maryland, pressure was also reported. And in New York, employees reported that, during meetings, their managers told them that forming a union would mean the end of some of their benefits.
Apple operates 250 stores across the U.S. and employs about 65,000 retail employees, out of a total of 154,000 full-time employees in the company. While unions already exist in Europe, management is concerned that the movement could spread to the United States. Just like Starbucks or Amazon, which strongly fought against plans to create unions, in Alabama or New York, but could not prevent the formation of a first organization in a warehouse on Staten Island, New York.