Apple Store votes to unionize for the first time

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Apple retail workers won their first union in the US. After the vote count closed late Saturday night, workers in Towson, Maryland, voted 65 to 33 to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. One hundred and ten employees had the right to vote.

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The workers “made a huge sacrifice for the thousands of Apple employees across the country who were all following this election,” IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. wrote in a statement, asking CEO Tim Cook to respect the results and expedite the first election. contract. “This win shows the growing demand for unions in Apple Stores and various industries across the country.”

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“Now we’re celebrating with @machinistsunion”, a newly certified union tweeted. “Tomorrow we will continue to organize.”

IAM describes itself as a Big Tent union with members ranging from aircraft technicians and engineers to nurses and social workers. Now they can add geniuses to their list. Apple’s victory is the latest in a wave of high-profile unions at major corporations since the pandemic since Amazon to Starbucks. An Apple store in Atlanta was the first to apply for April’s election to Communications Workers of America, but withdrew its petition last month, while another store in New York’s Grand Central Station announced its intention to apply. Organizing efforts underway with several unions at several other stores.

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IAM reports that when she applied for election in early May, 75 percent of employees signed cards indicating their desire to be represented by the union. As soon as they became public, Apple launched an intense anti-union campaign. It appears that the company has managed to pick out a few supporters, but not enough to drop below the 50 percent threshold needed to win.

Above all, Towson store employees wanted to have their say in their working conditions. They say the political mandates will come from corporations that seemed unrelated to the reality of their work. Pay has also been an issue for many employees, given their workload and the technical skills required for their jobs. Stress in the store reached a “boiling point” shortly before the pandemic, says organizing committee member Kevin Gallagher, who has worked at the Towson store for seven years.

Gallagher launched a Signal group chat in February 2020 to discuss unionization with colleagues, but things didn’t go too far at first. The pandemic hit, temporarily closing the store and dispersing employees who had been working from home for several months. After they returned, another employee mentioned to Gallagher that he had a friend at YogaWorks who had just teamed up with IAM. They met with IAM organizer David DiMaria at a local coffee shop and started talking about what they thought needed to change. DiMaria became the lead organizer of Towson’s IAM campaign.

Like many frontline workers who have survived the pandemic, the experience has pushed some Apple Store employees to their limits. When the local government moved away from wearing masks, Apple followed suit at its Towson office, and Gallagher says several employees contracted Covid-19 shortly before Christmas. He points to story published in The Verge in December about an Apple worker in North Carolina who was allegedly harassed by his manager and then committed suicide, marking a turning point. The staff devoted the entire morning to discussing the article. People shared their own experiences of being bullied and harassed by managers and suppressed in their careers. “The management response was something like this: “We hear you, absolutely. We’re here to listen,” Gallagher says. “Then they took out their brooms the next week and swept it all under the rug.”

In a statement sent prior to the announcement of the results, Apple spokesman Josh Lipton wrote, “We are fortunate to have amazing retail staff and deeply appreciate all they bring to Apple. We are pleased to offer very high compensation and benefits for full-time and part-time employees, including medical care, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, annual stock subsidies and many other benefits.”

Members wrote open letter to CEO Tim Cook, who announced their union as the Coalition of Organized Retail Workers, or CORE, and asked him not to wage anti-union campaigning. It went unnoticed. The company retained union prevention firm Littler Mendelson, the same firm used by Starbucks. An almost daily parade of anti-union rhetoric followed, some at daily meetings called “uploads” and some in one-on-one breaks. According to DiMaria, managers took people out of the store for walks and conversations, sometimes even every hour. At the end of May, Apple sent video to all of its US stores with Vice President of Retail Deirdre O’Brien. The union, she warned employees, “could limit our ability to make immediate, wide-ranging changes to improve your experience.”

DiMaria says Apple used scare tactics to try to mislead workers into believing that if the union won, they could forfeit their benefits, that attendance policies would become stricter, and that they wouldn’t be able to meet their managers without attendance. trade union. He says they appear to have tailored their messaging to individual employees, which a store worker in Atlanta says happened there as well.

Apple did take a different approach than Atlanta in scheduling group meetings to discuss the union. Previously, they were necessary, according to employees of the store in Atlanta. At Towson, they were declared voluntary, although they automatically appeared on staff timetables and had to be actively opted out. The change in tactics comes after memo from National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo, who said these so-called closed audience meetings were illegal. In light of this guidance, the union representing the Atlanta store filed an unfair labor practice lawsuit with the NLRB.

Members of the suspended union in Atlanta have contacted Apple employees at other stores, including Towson, to let them know what to expect from Apple and how to fight back. “When a manager says something in a public forum, it’s not enough to say it’s not true,” says Atlanta employee and organizing committee member Derrick Bowles. Employees should also go further and explain why the statement is illogical.

Bowles says managers tried to portray union organizers in Atlanta as aggressors, often using terms like “tension” and “intimidation” that he challenged at meetings. He says other Apple workers campaigning for unions should take notice of these managers. “For example: “You say that we can lose benefits. This is a threat? Would you like to put it in writing? You must put the leadership on the defensive. If you defend yourself, you will lose.”

In the end, the Atlanta staff withdrew their petition after failing a structural test, a demonstration of how member support unions measure the strength of their campaign. Bowles says many employees privately told organizers they supported the union, but they didn’t want to add their names to a letter asking store managers to stop union busting because they feared managers would treat them differently. At the same time, several members of the organizing committee were ill with Covid-19, exhausting the supporters needed to convince staff members otherwise. Without this commitment, the organizers could not be sure of the voting results.

“We didn’t want the first Apple Store [held a union election] fail,” says Bowles. “We didn’t want to hurt the overall movement.” But more importantly, if they vote and lose, they will have to wait a year to reapply for new elections. “It’s 12 months where my teammates struggled before we could even vote and then start negotiations.” Now they only have to wait six months to reapply, which Bowles says they intend to do.

When they do, they will be able to lean on Towson’s shoulders.

“Target [of anti-union campaigns] is to make employees feel, “I wish this would end,” says DiMaria. “To make the situation so uncomfortable and equate to an organization that people don’t want to organize.” But there is one thing that makes workers want to unite: to see other workers win. DiMaria says other Apple stores have begun organizing with IAM, although he won’t discuss the details until the campaigns are ready for public release. Apple Together, a coalition of corporate, retail and Apple Care workers, supporting retail union efforts at several additional stores.

“We see our role as helping other workers not only in the US but also overseas as workers at this company begin to stand up for their rights,” says DiMaria, who has received messages of solidarity from Apple workers around the world. “It’s really a global movement.”




Credit: www.wired.com /

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