Apple workers in Towson, Maryland, vote to unionize

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Apple workers in the Baltimore area voted to join a union on Saturday, becoming the first of the tech giant’s U.S. retail stores to do so.

The vote means workers at the Towson, Maryland, store plan to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) once a contract is ratified. Saturday night’s initial tally was 65-33, and the official tally was pending.

Last month, workers and IAM sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook telling him of their intention to organize as the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees – or AppleCore for short.

The vote is part of a wave of organizing sweeping the country as workers increasingly band together to demand higher wages, better benefits and more bargaining power with their employers during the pandemic. In New York, Amazon’s first warehouse voted to form a union in the spring. Dozens of Starbucks stores across the country have unionized, and labor movements have taken hold at outdoor retailer REI and video game maker Raven Software.

Apple Store in Maryland becomes the third to launch a labor campaign

Billy Jarboe, a Towson Apple employee and labor organizer, said Apple’s campaign to undermine the organizing effort “definitely rattled people,” but most union supporters remained strong.

“It feels good to enter a new era of this kind of work, I hope it will create a spark [and] other stores can use that momentum,” Jarboe said in a text after voting ended on Saturday.

Three Apple workers said the union campaign had lost supporters amid a corporate campaign to persuade workers not to organize.

“They made a lot of people shy away… they definitely got some people who we thought were originally supporters,” said Eric Brown, who works at the Towson Apple store.

Brown said they were able to overcome these tactics because the organizers of an abortive campaign in Atlanta prepared them for what to expect.

“They let us know what some of the talking points and tactics would be, and we were able to let people know some of the things they could try,” he said.

Apple spokesman Josh Lipton declined to comment after the vote.

About 20 Apple employees came to downtown Towson on Saturday night, some of whom were in the room when the votes were counted. Afterwards, IAM spokesperson DeLane Adams said, the group drove to the center parking lot, cheering and celebrating with the IAM members who were in attendance.

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

Workers at at least two other Apple Stores are trying to organize, including a store in New York and one in Atlanta, which became the first place workers filed documents with the National Labor Relations Board. But the Communications Workers of America withdrew its demand for an election there last month, saying in a statement that “Apple’s repeated violations of state labor relations law have made a free and fair election impossible.”

At the time, the organizing group sent a message to workers at the store, saying it would reset and “carry on with this fight”.

Rebecca Givan, an associate professor of social studies at Rutgers University, called Saturday’s result a big win for workers in the tech and retail sectors — and especially Apple employees outside of it. of Towson.

“We will definitely see Apple workers across the country reaching out to these workers to learn more about how to do this,” she said. “And to understand how they achieved such a resounding victory.”

Several companies, including Amazon and Apple, have been accused this year of “union busting” or employing tactics to discourage or intimidate workers from joining a union. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Employees at the Apple Store in New York this year said some workers were taken out by managers and gave a speech about the pitfalls of unionization there. In meetings, officials warned that unionizing would mean the loss of benefits such as the ability to take stints at Apple headquarters.

From Amazon to Apple, tech giants turn to old-fashioned union busting

Apple, which has more than 270 outlets nationwide, referred to a previous comment it made about organizing efforts.

“We are fortunate to have incredible members of the retail team and deeply appreciate all they bring to Apple,” Lipton said in a statement ahead of the vote. “We are pleased to offer very strong compensation and benefits for full-time and part-time employees, including health care, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, grants annual shares and many other benefits.”

Atlanta’s Apple Store is the first to file a case to form a union

Towson workers told the Washington Post last month they hope forming a union will give them a seat at the table on hours, wages, coronavirus safety measures and more. Some said Apple had been too slow to raise salaries and that the company needed to give individual stores more control over their scheduling systems, rather than having one corporate office control most of it.

“I always had the intuition that I was giving more value than I was receiving compensation, and that’s what covid helped me unpack: how much anxiety I had about it,” said said Jarboe, the Apple employee and labor organizer, to the Post at the time.

“We’re celebrating tonight. We relish it,” said Chaya Barrett, who works at the Towson store. “Then we will meet and determine how we will form a negotiating committee. … Even the people who voted no, we want them to be part of these negotiations.

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