Employees at an Apple store in Maryland chose to unionise, establishing the tech giant’s first retail union in the United States.
The Towson store employees voted 65-33 in favour of the initiative, with approximately a dozen abstentions. After the results were announced, the organisation tweeted, “Now we celebrate… tomorrow we continue organising.”
It is the third Apple store to initiate a union drive this year, but the first to hold a vote successfully.
The Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, the new Apple Core union, wrote an open letter to Apple in May, claiming their bid was “about us as workers obtaining access to rights that we do not now have,” but that it did not want to “go against or create confrontation with our management.”
Other Apple stores in Atlanta and New York have also begun to unionise. Staff in Atlanta, on the other hand, have postponed their planned ballot, citing anti-union action by the firm, according to the union involved, the Communications Workers of America.
Unions are less common in the United States than in many European countries, but they are nonetheless legally protected.
To form one, either the firm voluntarily recognises a union or workers gather signatures from at least 30 per cent of employees so that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) can organise a formal election.
According to reports, Apple hired a legal firm recognised for its union expertise and compiled “talking points” for its management teams to discourage employees from joining one.
Motherboard published an audio clip in April of retail vice president Deirdre O’Brien telling staff that, while she recognised the right to join a union, “it’s equally your right not to join a union.”
“I’m worried about what it would mean to put another organization in the middle of our relationship, an organization that does not have a deep understanding of Apple or our business,” the released audio says.
Towson employees were supported by a long-standing union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Its president, Robert Martinez Jr., hailed Apple staff on a “historic triumph.”
“They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election,” he said.
“This victory shows the growing demand for unions at Apple stores and different industries across our nation.”
Apple declined to comment on the vote, which has yet to be officially validated by the NLRB, according to the AFP news agency.
The Towson store’s union is the most recent in a long line of high-profile union campaigns in the United States.
Starbucks employees formed their first union in decades in December, thanks to a successful campaign in New York, which spawned similar initiatives in many of the company’s individual stores.
In April, Amazon workers at a New York warehouse voted 55 per cent in favour of unionisation, though Amazon is disputing that poll and requesting a re-run.
(Adapted from Reuters.com)