Apple employees at Maryland Store vote to unionize, a first in the U.S.

Apple employees at a Baltimore store have voted in favor of syndication, becoming the first of the company’s more than 270 stores in the United States to join an organizational trend labor that sweeps shops, restaurants and technology companies.

The result, announced Saturday by the National Labor Relations Board, provides a fulcrum for an evolving movement among Apple’s retail employees who want a bigger voice on Covid-19 wages and policies. Employees at more than two dozen Apple stores have expressed interest in unionizing in recent months, union leaders say.

In the election, 65 employees of the Apple store in Towson, Maryland, voted to be represented by the union, known as the Apple Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, while 33 voted against. He will be a member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, an industrial union representing more than 300,000 employees.

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

Tyra Reeder, a specialist technician who has worked at the Towson store for just over six months, said she was “enthusiastic” about the outcome and hoped a union would help increase workers’ compensation; stabilize the store’s schedule, which has been strained by recent Covid-19 cases; and facilitate the advancement of workers within the company.

“We love our job. We just want to see them better, “said Reeder.

The result is a blow to Apple’s campaign to curb union impulses by arguing that it pays more than many retailers and offers a range of benefits, including health care and stock subsidies. Last month, it raised retail employees’ starting salaries to $ 22 an hour, starting at $ 20, and released a video of Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s leading retailer, warning employees to join. if a union could harm the business of the company.

Apple declined to comment.

Towson employees said in a video before the union vote that Apple’s anti-union campaign there was “nasty” and included the direction it told workers that unions previously banned black employees from joining their files. In the weeks leading up to the vote, Ms. O’Brien visited the store and thanked everyone for their efforts.

Shortly afterwards, employees said their managers began encouraging staff to express their concerns at meetings and help find solutions to their complaints. They also began gathering employees at individual meetings where managers highlighted the cost of union dues, said Eric Brown, a Towson employee active in the union effort.

Earlier this month, employees at an Atlanta store abandoned a planned election as union support faded following Apple’s measures to raise wages and highlight the benefits it offered. Atlanta union organizers have filed a formal complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Apple of requiring workers to listen to anti-union messages during mandatory meetings. The board has not yet determined whether the charge has merit.

Ms. Reeder said Atlanta workers had helped prepare union supporters at the Towson store to turn off the company’s discussion points. “We had some information from the Atlanta store about things that were to come,” he said, citing company suggestions that employees could lose certain benefits during contract negotiations if they unionized.

“For that to happen, most of us have to agree,” Ms. Reeder. “I don’t think any of us agree to lose something we love so much that benefits us.”

At Starbucks, one of the companies where organizers have gained the most momentum, employees credited a vote for organizing in a Buffalo store to help encourage other stores to run for union elections. Since that vote in December, more than 150 of the company’s approximately 9,000 corporate-owned stores in the U.S. have voted in favor of syndication, according to the NLRB.

Store workers who later joined the union contacted Buffalo employees for advice on how to navigate the process.

“Workers gain interest and courage if workers from other places prevail,” said William Gould, a law professor at Stanford University and author of “For Labor to Build Upon: Wars, Depression and Pandemic.” “Many look to see: can workers succeed? Will they join? If the answer is yes, it will encourage other workers to take a step towards collective bargaining. “

Employees’ ability to win a contract may depend on whether the campaign extends to other stores. Starbucks union supporters have said one of their main sources of leverage over the company is the fact that they continue to win elections across the country.

Amazon workers who helped unionize a Staten Island warehouse in April have also said they would benefit if more warehouses remained the same. The company is challenging the result of this vote before the labor board. With only one location in the United States formally unionized, the company can focus its resources on opposing the union.

Apple employees are also organizing at the Grand Central Terminal store in New York and a store in Louisville, Kentucky. These stores are creating support before calling for elections. Atlanta organizers have said they plan to revive their election in the future.

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