Apple store votes to unionize in growing push for U.S. workplace protections
Union organizing in a variety of fields in the U.S. has gained momentum recently
Apple store employees in a Baltimore suburb voted to unionize by a nearly 2-to-1 margin Saturday, a union said, joining a growing push across U.S. retail, service and tech industries to organize for greater workplace protections.
The Apple retail workers in Towson, Md., voted 65-33 to seek entry into the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union's announcement said. The vote could not immediately be confirmed with the U.S. National Labour Relations Board, which would have to certify the outcome. An NLRB spokesperson referred initial queries about the vote to the board's regional office, which was closed late Saturday.
Apple declined to comment on Saturday's development, company spokesperson Josh Lipton told The Associated Press by phone.
Union organizing in a variety of fields has gained momentum recently after decades of decline in U.S. union membership. Organizers have worked to establish unions at companies including Amazon, Starbucks, Google parent company Alphabet and outdoors retailer REI.
Seeking rights 'we do not currently have'
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the Apple employees who wanted to join said they sent Apple CEO Tim Cook notice last month that they were seeking to form a union. The statement said their driving motivation was to seek "rights we do not currently have." It added that the workers recently organized in the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, or CORE.
"I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory," said IAM International president Robert Martinez Jr. in the statement. "They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election."
Martinez called on Apple to respect the election results and to let the unionizing employees fast-track efforts to secure a contract at the Towson location.
It remained unclear what steps would follow the vote in Towson. Labour experts say it's common for employers to drag out the bargaining process in an effort to take the momentum out of union campaigns.
The IAM bills itself as one of the largest and most diverse industrial trade unions in North America, representing approximately 600,000 active and retired members in the aerospace, defence, airlines, railroad, transit, health care, automotive and other industries.
The Apple store unionization comes against a backdrop of other labour organizing nationwide — some of them rebuffed.
Amazon workers at a warehouse in New York City voted to unionize in April, the first successful U.S. organizing effort in the retail giant's history. However, workers at another Amazon warehouse on Staten Island overwhelmingly rejected a union bid last month. Meanwhile, Starbucks workers at dozens of U.S. stores have voted to unionize in recent months, after two of the coffee chain's stores in Buffalo, New York, voted to unionize late last year.
Many unionization efforts have been led by young workers in their 20s and even in their teens. A group of Google engineers and other workers formed the Alphabet Workers Union last year, which represents around 800 Google employees and is run by five people who are under 35.