Apple workers in Towson, Maryland vote to join unions

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Apple workers in the Baltimore area voted to join a union on Saturday, becoming the first tech giant US retailer to do so.

The vote means that store workers in Towson, Maryland, plan to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) once the contract is ratified. The preliminary tally on Saturday evening was 65-33, and the official count was pending.

Last month, workers and the IAM sent a letter to Apple CEO, Tim Cook, of their intent to organize under the name of the Organized Retail Employee Coalition — or AppleCore for short.

This vote is part of a wave of regulation sweeping the nation as workers increasingly unite to demand higher wages, better benefits and more negotiating leverage with employers during the pandemic. In New York, the first Amazon warehouse voted to form a consortium in the spring. Dozens of Starbucks stores across the country have joined unions, and labor movements have pushed outdoor retailer REI and video game maker Raven Software.

Apple Store in Maryland becomes third to launch Union Drive

Billy Garboe, a Towson Apple employee and union organizer, said Apple’s campaign to undermine organizing efforts “certainly shook people,” but most union supporters remained strong.

“It gives us great pleasure to usher in a new era of this kind of work, and we hope it will create a spark. [and] “Other stores can use this momentum,” Garboe said in a text after voting ended on Saturday.

Three Apple employees said the union’s campaign has lost some supporters amid the companies’ campaign to persuade workers not to organize.

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“They made a lot of people hesitate… They definitely attracted some of the people we originally thought were supporters,” said Eric Brown, who works at the Towson Apple Store.

Brown said they were able to get around those tactics because organizers of an aborted campaign in Atlanta set them on what to expect.

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

Apple spokesman Josh Lipton declined to comment after the vote.

About 20 Apple workers came to Tucson city center on Saturday evening, some of whom were in the room while the votes were being counted. Then, IAM spokesperson DeLane Adams said, the group went to the center’s parking garage, applauding and celebrating with IAM members who were present.

“I applaud the courage shown by the CORE members at the Apple Store in Tucson in achieving this historic victory,” Robert Martinez Jr., IAM International President, said in a statement after the vote. “They have made tremendous sacrifices for the thousands of Apple employees across the country who have been observing this election.”

Workers at at least two other Apple Store locations are trying to organize, including one in New York and one in Atlanta, which became the first site The workers filed documents with the National Labor Relations Board. But US telecom workers withdrew their request to hold elections there last month, saying in a statement that “Apple’s repeated violations of the National Labor Relations Act have made free and fair elections impossible.”

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At the time, the organizing group sent a message to workers in the store, saying it would reset and “continue this fight.”

Rebecca Jevan, associate professor of labor studies at Rutgers University, called Saturday’s result a big win for workers in the tech and retail sectors — and in particular for Apple employees outside of Tucson.

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

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

Apple Store employees in New York This year, he said, managers took some workers aside and gave a speech about the shortcomings of unions there. At meetings, managers warned that union formation would mean losing benefits such as the ability to carry out tasks at Apple’s headquarters.

From Amazon to Apple, tech giants are turning to old-school union busting

Apple, which has more than 270 retail locations in the country, noted an earlier comment it made about the union’s efforts.

“We are fortunate to have such incredible members of the retail team and we deeply appreciate everything they do for Apple,” Lipton said in a statement ahead of the vote. “We are pleased to offer very strong compensation and benefits to full-time and part-time employees, including healthcare, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, annual stock awards and many other benefits.”

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The Apple Store in Atlanta is the first to file for a consortium

Workers in Tucson told the Washington Post last month that they hope the formation of a union will give them a seat at the table on scheduling, wages, coronavirus safety measures and more. Some have said that Apple has been too slow to increase wages, and that the company needs to give individual stores more control over their scheduling systems, rather than most of them being controlled by the corporate office.

“I always had a hunch that I was giving away more value than I was getting, and that’s what covid helped me unpack: how worried I am about it,” Garboy, Apple employee and union organizer, said. He told the newspaper in time.

“Tonight, we’re celebrating. We’re enjoying it,” said Chaya Barrett, who works at the Towson store. And then we’ll meet and find out how we’ll get a negotiating committee. …Even the people who voted ‘no’, we want them to be a part of these negotiations.”

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