Store workers vote to form first Apple union in US

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San Francisco (AFP) – A majority of employees at an Apple store in the United States have voted to form the tech giant’s first union, following similar organizing drives at Starbucks and Amazon.

Of the 110 employees at the Towson, Md. store, 65 voted in favor and 33 against, according to a live tally broadcast Saturday by the federal agency overseeing the vote.

The vote comes after a group of employees called AppleCORE (Coalition of Organized Retail Employees) campaigned for unionization, demanding a say in wages, hours and safety measures.

“We made it Towson! We won our union vote! Thank you to everyone who worked so hard and everyone who supported! Now we celebrate…Tomorrow we keep organizing,” tweeted AppleCORE.

Saturday’s result means shop workers, who have been voting since Wednesday, should form their own branch of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) union, once the agency has certified the results.

The result of Saturday’s vote follows several symbolic victories – including among workers at giants like Amazon and Starbucks – for the country’s decades-declining unions, which President Joe Biden has thrown his support behind.

It wasn’t the first time employees at an Apple store had attempted to unionize, but it was the first attempt that resulted in a vote.

Apple’s director of distribution and human resources, Deirdre O’Brien, visited the store in May to speak to employees.

“I want to start by saying it’s your right to join a union, but it’s also your right not to join a union,” O’Brien said, according to audio released by Vice.

“If you’re faced with this decision, I want to encourage you to consult with a wide range of people and sources to understand what it might be like to work at Apple under a collective bargaining agreement.”

The presence of an intermediary would complicate relations between Apple and its employees, she said.

“I worry what it would mean to put another organization in the middle of our relationship, one that doesn’t have a deep understanding of Apple or our business,” O’Brien said.

“And most importantly, one who I don’t believe shares our commitment to you.”

‘Courage’

The vote follows a greater push for unionization at some of the largest companies in the United States.

After a union formed at two Starbucks coffee shops in December in the northern city of Buffalo, employees at more than 160 of the chain’s locations demanded similar votes.

At Amazon, workers in a New York warehouse surprised everyone in early April by voting overwhelmingly to form a union, a first for the colossus of e-commerce in the United States.

But the company asked for the result to be overturned and for a second vote to be held.

Apple declined to comment on the news when contacted by AFP.

The IAM union has criticized the Silicon Valley giant’s efforts to discourage employees from voting yes.

A video of the group, posted by pro-union outlet More Perfect Union, shows AppleCORE supporters in Maryland accusing the company of “union busting” tactics, including “bullying,” which employees called ” disgusting”.

IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr said he applauded the “courage” of the workers.

“They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the country who had their eyes on this election,” he said in a statement. “I call on Apple CEO Tim Cook to respect the election results and expedite a first contract for dedicated IAM CORE Apple employees in Towson.”

“This victory shows the growing demand for unions at Apple stores and different industries across our country.”

Luz W. German