Apple workers at a store in Maryland are the first in the U.S. to vote to join a union.
About two-thirds of the workers at the Towson, Maryland, store voted to join the union.
Apple employees at a store in the Baltimore area have voted to join a union. This makes it the first of the company’s more than 270 stores in the U.S. to join a trend of labor organizing that is sweeping through stores, restaurants, and tech companies.
The National Labor Relations Board announced the result on Saturday. It gives Apple retail workers who want a bigger say in how much they get paid and how Covid-19 works a place to start. Union leaders say that in the past few months, employees at more than two dozen Apple stores have shown interest in joining a union.
In the election, 65 employees at the Apple store in Towson, Maryland, voted for the union, which is called the Apple Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, and 33 voted against it. It will be part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, an industrial trade union that represents more than 300,000 workers.
Robert Martinez Jr., president of IAM International, said in a statement, “I applaud the courage shown by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson, which led to this historic victory.” “They gave up a lot for the thousands of Apple employees all over the country who were keeping a close eye on this election.”
Tyra Reeder, a technical specialist who has worked at the Towson store for a little over six months, said she was “elated” with the result and hoped that a union would help improve workers’ compensation, stabilize the store’s schedule, which has been thrown off by recent Covid-19 cases, and make it easier for workers to move up in the company.
“We love our jobs. Ms. Reeder said, “All we want is for them to do better.”
Apple’s plan to stop unions by saying it pays more than most retailers and gives a lot of benefits, like health care and stock grants, was hurt by the decision. Last month, it raised the starting hourly wage for retail workers from $20 to $22. It also put out a video of Deirdre O’Brien, who is in charge of Apple retail, warning employees that joining a union could hurt the company’s business.
Apple didn’t want to say anything.
Before the union vote, employees in Towson said in a video that Apple’s anti-union campaign there was “nasty” and that management told workers that unions used to keep Black people from joining. Ms. O’Brien stopped by the store a few weeks before the vote to thank everyone for their hard work.
Employees said that soon after that, their managers started encouraging them to talk about their problems in meetings and help come up with solutions. They also started to pull workers into one-on-one meetings with managers, where the cost of union dues was brought up, said Eric Brown, a Towson worker who was involved in the union drive.
This month, workers at an Apple store in Atlanta decided not to hold an election because support for the union had waned after Apple raised wages and emphasized the benefits it offered. The union organizers in Atlanta have filed a formal complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, saying that Apple made workers attend meetings where anti-union messages were played. The board hasn’t decided yet whether or not the charge is true.
Ms. Reeder said that workers in Atlanta had helped union supporters in the Towson store learn how to counter the company’s talking points. “The Atlanta store gave us a little taste of what was to come,” she said, referring to the company’s suggestion that employees could lose some benefits if they joined a union and negotiated a new contract.
“Most of us have to agree for that to happen,” Ms. Reeder said. “I don’t think any of us would agree to give up something we really care about and that helps us.”
At Starbucks, one of the places where organizers have made the most progress, employees said that a vote to organize at a store in Buffalo helped get other stores to file for union elections. The National Labor Relations Board says that since that vote in December, more than 150 of the company’s 9,000 corporate-owned stores in the U.S. have voted to join a union.
People who worked at stores that later joined unions talked to people who worked in Buffalo to find out how to handle the process.
William Gould, a law professor at Stanford University and the author of “For Labor to Build Upon: Wars, Depression, and Pandemic,” said that when workers in other places win, it gives them hope and courage. “Many are watching to see if workers can succeed. Will they join forces? If the answer is yes, it will make other workers more likely to take steps toward collective bargaining.
Whether or not the campaign spreads to other stores could make or break the workers’ chances of getting a contract. Union supporters at Starbucks have said that the fact that they keep winning elections around the country gives them a lot of power over the company.
Amazon workers who helped form a union at a warehouse in Staten Island in April said they would benefit if more warehouses did the same. The company is going to the labor board to try to change the result of that vote. Since there is only one official unionized location in the U.S., the company can use its resources to fight against the union there.
Apple workers are also organizing at the store in New York’s Grand Central Terminal and at a store in Louisville, Kentucky. Before they ask for an election, these stores are building support. The people who put on the election in Atlanta have said that they want to do it again in the future.