An Apple store in Maryland makes history by forming the company’s first recognized union – TechCrunch

As several Apple stores across the country compete for unions, workers in Towson, Maryland became the first to receive formal recognition. Of the 110 eligible workers, the union received 65 yes votes and 33 no votes.

This historic victory comes after concentrated efforts by Apple to discourage its store employees from joining unions. Last month, Deirdre O’Brien, the multi-billion dollar company’s vice president of people and retail, sent a video to 58,000 retail employees warning them about the perceived downsides of unionization. O’Brien repeated anti-union discussions, stating that it would be harder to make changes in stores with a union between Apple and employees — but workers don’t think meaningful change is possible without a formally recognized negotiating unit.

An Atlanta store would be the first to hold union elections, but organizers withdrew their request, alleging that Apple was using illegal union-breaking tactics, such as holding “captive audience” rallies. At the time of running for an election, the Cumberland Mall store in Atlanta had 70% of its roughly 100 employees sign union authorization cards, demonstrating their interest in moving forward. Since then, Apple has increased retail wages to a minimum of $22 per hour, from $20.

Now, the Maryland store will unionize through the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and call itself the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE). When they first announced their intention to unionize, they wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

“We came together as a union because of a deep love for our role as employees within the company and out of concern for the company itself,” the letter reads. “To be clear, the decision to form a union is about us as workers gaining access to rights that we currently do not have.”

As the first Apple Store in the country to join a union, these Towson employees can spark a movement for other retail locations to follow suit. According to the New York Times, more than two dozen Apple stores have expressed interest in hosting, including the Grand Central Terminal store in New York City.

To quell the growing push for unionization in retail, Apple has partnered with Littler Mendelson, the same law firm that supports Starbucks’ anti-union campaign. But Starbucks employees managed to win a wave of union elections anyway. In December, a Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York became the company’s first coffee shop to join. Now, about seven months later, 158 stores in 30 states have joined a union.

TechCrunch reached out to an Apple spokesperson for comment, but didn’t hear back before publishing.

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