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Apple store employees in Maryland have decided to unionize, making it the company’s first retail union in the US. The workers at the Towson shop voted 65-33 in favor of the initiative, with a few abstentions.
“Now we celebrate… tomorrow we resume organizing,” the organization tweeted after receiving the results.
It’s the third Apple store to try to form a union this year, but it’s the first to get a vote.
In May, the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, or Apple Core, wrote an open letter to Apple, explaining that their proposal was “about us as workers obtaining access to rights that we do not currently have” but that it did not want to “go against or create a confrontation with our management.”
Other Apple store employees, including those in Atlanta and New York, have also taken steps toward unionization. However, workers in Atlanta have postponed a planned poll, citing anti-union action by the firm, according to the union involved, the Communications Workers of America.
Unions in the United States are less common than in many European countries, but they are nonetheless legally protected. In order for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a formal election, either the company must voluntarily recognize a union or workers must collect signatures from at least 30% of the employees.
According to reports, Apple engaged a law firm with a history of working with unions and compiled “talking points” for its management teams to discourage employees from joining one.
Motherboard obtained an audio clip of retail vice president Deirdre O’Brien telling staff that while she recognized the right to join a union, “it’s equally your choice not to join a union,” according to Motherboard.
In the audio clip, O’Brien describes unionization as “placing an organization that doesn’t have a deep grasp of Apple” in the center of the company’s current relationship with its employees. It was a worrying situation, she said.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which has been around for a long time, supported the Towson employees. Robert Martinez Jr., the company’s president, congratulated Apple workers on a “historic triumph.”
The NLRB has yet to certify the vote; therefore, Apple declined to respond to requests by reporters for comment.
Apple store employees at the Towson store is the most recent in a long line of high-profile US union initiatives.
Starbucks employees in New York formed their first union in decades in December after a successful campaign, and similar initiatives have sprung up in many of the company’s individual stores since then.
In April, Amazon workers in a New York warehouse voted 55 percent in favor of unionization, though the company is contesting the results and requesting a re-run.