Photo: Apple store opening. Credit — Flickr
Apple store workers in Towson, in northern Baltimore County, recently announced that they are organizing a union – the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (AppleCore) with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
This is the third Apple store that has recently announced a union campaign, following one in New York City and one in Atlanta. Since the Towson store’s campaign went public, a store in Louisville, Kentucky, and another in Glasgow, Scotland, have announced campaigns.
Workers at the Towson store are organizing around the need for better pay, hours and scheduling. Kevin Ghallagher, in an interview with More Perfect Union, said that one of the goals of their organizing is “to create an environment where the people who have a lot of really skilled labor are being compensated [and] are being treated with that level of respect that they deserve.”
Another worker, Julian Milligan, told the Baltimore Sun he sees a union as a way to “make sure everyone is compensated correctly, making sure everyone is cared for correctly.” He said, “With the rise of inflation, it’s kind of hard paying student loans and bills and groceries every week…. Apple is a pretty big company. One would think we would get paid more.” Milligan also worried about Apple not taking sufficient precautions to protect workers during the pandemic.
Aside from organizing around issues like pay and hours, workers are also making it clear that they want a voice in decision-making. Ghallagher, also quoted by the Washington Post, shared that “More money is nice, but it’s really about agency.”
The workers have been organizing for almost a year before going public and have already gotten signatures from 65% of their workplace for an initial union card petition. Because Apple has refused to recognize the union, the next stage is an election through the National Labor Relations Board, which is set for four days of in-person voting starting June 15.
Onye Igwulu, another worker, emphasized how important unions are, saying that organizing alongside his coworkers “was just an amazing feeling. … It’s something I believe is going to bring positive change and that the workers will have a real say in workplace matters. A union isn’t some third-party organization. It is the workers.”
Apple’s union-busting: rotten to the core
Apple has not only refused to voluntarily recognize the union despite a supermajority of support, but has also hired the same anti-union law firm that Starbucks has been using in its union-busting: Littler Mendelson. Most recently, an attorney with Littler Mendelson, Alan Model, was instrumental in helping Starbucks retaliate against organizing workers by closing an entire store in Ithaca, New York.
The lengths Apple has gone to to prevent workers from organizing only proves the need for workers to unionize.
Workers will not be dissuaded by Apple’s tactics. Communications Workers of America Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffans made clear, “By retaining the notorious union busting firm Littler Mendelson, Apple’s management is showing that they intend to try to prevent their employees from exercising their right to join a union by running the same playbook as other large corporations … The workers at Starbucks, another Littler client, aren’t falling for it and neither will the workers at Apple.” CWA represents Apple workers organizing at a store in Atlanta.
CWA has filed a complaint with the NLRB over Apple’s actions, arguing that they violate federal labor law. The filing includes allegations of “interrogating staff, restricting the posting of union flyers, and requiring employees to attend mandatory anti-union speeches,” also known as captive-audience meetings. Captive-audience meetings are a nasty, but currently allowed, union-busting tactic that the NLRB is now considering prohibiting.
A recent internal video was leaked where Apple’s vice president of people and retail tries to dissuade workers from forming a union. The video was sent to all of Apple’s 65,000 staff in the US.
Apple and Starbucks hiring the same union-busting law firm demonstrates the shared interests of employers across industries, who are united in their efforts to exploit workers. The only way to fight back is through organizing and uniting.