Apple workers in Maryland vote for company’s first union store in the US

Apple workers in Maryland vote for company’s first union store in the US

Apple workers in Maryland vote for company’s first union store in the US

An employee arranges Apple iPhones as a customer store at an Apple store.

Mike Segar | Reuters

Workers at an Apple store in Towson, Maryland, voted Saturday to join a union, a major organized labor achievement that could encourage workers at other Apple stores to join a union. The Towson store is the first unionized Apple store in the US

The vote is a defeat for Apple, which opposes union efforts, and could encourage employees at the company’s other retail locations to continue organizing.

The count was 65 votes in favor and 33 against. About 110 workers were eligible to vote to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Voting started on Wednesday and continued until Saturday evening.

“We did it Towson! We won our union vote! Thank you to everyone who worked so hard and everyone who supported us!” Towson Organizers tweeted

The National Labor Relations Board has yet to approve the votes. That can take about a week. According to the NLRB, Apple will have to negotiate employment terms with the union after the vote is certified.

The Towson store is not one of Apple’s so-called “flagship” stores in high-traffic areas of major cities. It is a smaller location in a shopping center.

The store gained attention from Apple management as soon as workers announced plans to join a union. Apple’s head of retail and HR, Deirdre O’Brien, visited the site in May. A recorded message from O’Brien distributed to workers after union actions went public discouraged retail workers from joining unions. She said unions are not committed to the company’s employees.

Employees want more input on pay and working conditions, such as how the stores handle Covid safety and other operations.

“To be clear, the decision to form a union is about us as employees who will be given access to rights we don’t currently have,” Towson’s organizers wrote in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

The Towson store is one of several Apple locations that have publicly announced union actions, and other store organizers in other locations are closely monitoring the results. Two high-traffic, high-volume stores in New York, the Grand Central Terminal and World Trade Center locations, have said they will unionize but have yet to advance to the stage of an official vote.

An Atlanta, Georgia store was scheduled to hold elections earlier this month that were postponed indefinitely after the union, Communication Workers of America, alleged Apple intimidated its employees. Stores in Louisville, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee are also organizing, according to NBC News.

The Apple Retail Union at the Towson Store is unlikely to jeopardize Apple’s core business model of selling devices and services. While Apple retail stores are an important channel for product sales, Apple also sells through its website and retail partners such as couriers. Apple’s hourly workforce is smaller than other companies currently facing waves of union action, such as Amazon and Starbucks.

Apple is one of the most profitable companies in the world. It reported more than $365 billion in global sales in 2021 and says its store associates in the US earn at least $22 an hour.