Unionization Hits Apple

The move towards unionizing retail stores has now plucked Apple, which is about to have its first organized U.S. location in Towson, Maryland. Employees voted 65-33 to officially join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The National Labor Relations Board must certify the results before negotiations with company management may commence.

Just to be clear, Apple’s retail employees in the U.S. are paid a striking average of $22 per hour.

The internal group calls itself AppleCORE, or Coalition of Organized Retail Employees. Workers say they want a louder voice on issues such as pay, hours, and safety.

Suffice it to say, Apple is not on board with the movement. The company hired lawyers to fight the effort and discouraged the action through communication from store-level and corporate management.

The company’s head of retail and human resources, Deirdre O’Brien, sent a recorded message to store employees after the union push started. The executive said unions do not have employee’s best interests at heart, and unionizing would make it harder for Apple to address workers’ concerns.

One Atlanta location halted its drive for unionization as supporters claimed pressure from the company made it impossible to sustain the push. Communication Workers of America slammed Apple for what it called intimidating workers.

Other locations, including two major New York City stores, are signaling interest in organizing but have not held votes. Sites in Louisville, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee, are moving towards a union vote.

Apple is much less tied to the brick-and-mortar retail model than other targets for union expansion, such as Starbucks. The tech giant sells much of its products online or through other retail carriers. The company has a relatively small storefront workforce.

A scant 6.1% of non-government employees are union members, and an even lower 4.4% of retail workers pay dues.

The tight labor market and low unemployment numbers gives employees more leverage, and many now opt to move on to better paying positions. Those positions are growing, as illustrated by Apple store employees averaging $22 per hour.