Apple Store Atlanta workers are the first to officially seek a union

Employees at an Apple store in Atlanta filed a petition on Wednesday to hold union elections. If successful, workers could form the first union at an Apple store in the United States.

The move is part of the recent service sector unionization trend in which unions won elections at Starbucks, Amazon and REI.

The workers hope to join the Communications Workers of America, which represents workers at companies like AT&T Mobility and Verizon, and has made concerted strides in the tech sector in recent years.

The union says about 100 workers at the store – at Cumberland Mall in northwest Atlanta – are eligible to vote, including sales associates and repair technicians, and that more than 70% of them signed release cards indicating their support.

In a statement, the union said Apple, like other tech employers, had effectively created a multi-tiered workforce that denied retail workers the pay, benefits and respect workers earned in his offices.

Workers said they liked working at Apple, but sometimes felt like they were treated like second-class employees. “We want the equivalent of what the company actually gets,” said Sydney Rhodes, a store worker involved in the union campaign.

Ms Rhodes, who has been with Apple for four years, said she and many of her colleagues hoped to continue working for Apple for years to come, but it was often unclear how they could progress within the company. . “Another reason we are working on this union is for a clearer and more concise way to grow, especially internally,” she added.

An Apple spokesperson said the company offers strong benefits, including health care coverage, tuition reimbursement and paid family leave, as well as a $20 minimum pay rate. hour for retail workers.

“We are fortunate to have incredible members of the retail team, and we deeply appreciate all they bring to Apple,” the spokesperson said, but declined to comment on the union effort. . The company has not said whether it will voluntarily recognize the union.

National Labor Relations Board officials will then determine whether there is enough interest among workers to hold an election – the bar is officially 30% – and set the terms for a potential vote. Both the union and the employer will have the opportunity to weigh in on the details, including the universe of employees eligible to participate and whether the vote should take place by mail or in person.

Other unions, including Workers United, affiliated with the giant Service Employees International Union that led the organizing drive at Starbucks, are also seeking to organize Apple retail workers, who number in the tens of thousands in the United States. .

Workers at an Apple Store in New York’s Grand Central Terminal have started signing permission cards that could lead to a demand for a union vote that would allow them to join Workers United. The move was reported over the weekend by The Washington Post.

Activism and union organizing at Apple has grown since last summer, when discontent over the company’s plan to force employees back to the office morphed into a broader movement, called #AppleToo . This movement aimed to highlight workplace issues such as harassment, unequal pay and what workers described as a culture of secrecy that pervaded the company.

“Apple workers across industries and around the world are using their voices to demand better treatment,” said #AppleToo executive Janneke Parrish of the union effort. Ms Parrish said Apple fired her in retaliation for her organization. “I’m so happy to see workers taking this big step to stand up for their rights,” she said. Apple disputed Ms Parrish’s accusations.

The #AppleToo movement included retail workers, who have said throughout the pandemic that Apple hasn’t done enough to protect them from the coronavirus.

Complaints from retail workers escalated late last year when the Omicron variant quickly spread across the country and at least 20 Apple stores had to close temporarily as a precaution or because so many of their employees had been infected that the stores could no longer operate. On Christmas Eve, several dozen Apple employees quit their jobs to demand better wages and working conditions.

Ms Rhodes said the effort at her store began in earnest last fall and her colleagues had been encouraged by union campaigns at companies like Starbucks and Amazon.

Beyond its overtures at Apple, the communications workers’ union has been present at Google in recent years, helping workers form a so-called solidarity or minority union that allows them to coordinate their actions without organizing union elections or seek certification from the labor commission. Companies are not required to negotiate with minority unions, as they are with more formal unions.

The union also recently won a vote to represent about a dozen retail employees at Google Fiber stores in Kansas City, Mo., who are officially employed by a Google contractor. He is seeking to represent a few dozen Wisconsin-based quality assurance officers at video game maker Activision Blizzard, which Microsoft is in the process of acquiring, pending regulatory approval.

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