The Notoriously Secretive Apple Faces Some Increasingly Public Union Organizing Activity

by | Jun 2, 2022 | CWA, Politics, SEIU, Union Organizing

As a tech giant, Apple’s operating systems aim to be like a fortress and, more often than not, the company succeeds at that goal. In their retail stores, however, Apple’s workforce isn’t impenetrable. Whispers of organizing among employees proved to be real earlier this year. In other words, the union-secret is out for Apple’s retail stores, and the past few months show that no workplace remains invulnerable to union activity.

In an attempt to curb this budding trend among its stores (only four so far among 272 in the U.S.), Apple outlined a plan to bump up retail starting pay to $22 per hour (a hike of at least two dollars). Yet the organizing trend, reportedly, continues to spread through online forums not hosted by Apple, and there appears to be no unified method to the madness, given that at least three unions gained traction at four Apple retail stores.

Here are the latest reported developments at those stores with a “younger” twist at the recently added fourth location:

  1. Atlanta, Georgia: Workers at Cumberland Mall hoped to claim the first organized U.S. Apple store. They filed for a vote to form the Apple Workers Union under the Communication Workers of America’s CODE-CWA (Coalition to Organize Digital Employees) mission. This week, however, organizers pulled their vote bid while pointing towards a Covid-19 wave among employees. The organizers also allege that Apple engaged in unfair labor practices (by holding “captive audience meetings,” which are also under NLRB fire) that could impact an election;
  2. Towson, Maryland: Employees began to organize through the International Association of Machinists and form CORE, the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees. The store’s workers plan to vote in mid-June;
  3. Manhattan, New York: The Grand Central Terminal store became ground central for the Workers United arm of the SEIU to try and add to their recent Starbucks wins. These Apple retail employees seek a $30 or greater minimum wage;
  4. Louisville, Kentucky: In late May, workers – who are thus far not affiliated with any union in particular – publicized their organizing campaign. This drive attributes its existence to a 20-year-old retail employee who’s citing pandemic burnout, pay rates, and employee disconnection from Apple’s emphasis on metrics as a measure of success.

As that last entry indicates, younger organizers can be behind these headline-making organizing drives. In fact, a 19-year-old UC Santa Cruz freshman, who’s now setting his sights upon running for a state lawmaker position, helmed the first drive at California Starbucks cafes. Within his political campaign, he’s describing himself as a “pro-worker worker,” and he’s counting upon the older generations to write him off as a contender.

Here are a few final odds and ends for this organizing roundup:

  • Chipotle Mexican Grill workers gathered with an SEIU local to demand a $20 minimum wage in New York City. New York State Senator Jessica Ramos joined the rally; subsequently, law enforcement reportedly arrested Ramos and at least  10 Chipotle workers;
  • Hundreds of Planned Parenthood Workers (including nurses) in five states (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and the Dakotas) announced their intent to organize under the SEIU, which already represents workers at Planned Parenthood locations in New York, D.C., Oregon, and Washington state.
  • Workers at Seven Seas Entertainment, an independent publishing house based in Los Angeles, announced their intent to form the first manga union in the U.S. (in collaboration with the CWA). The workers asked for recognition as the United Workers of the Seven Seas and filed for a union vote.
  • About 100 Aramark dining and catering service workers (including baristas) at Western Kentucky University declared their intent to unionize with the SEIU, which is a continued sign that the restaurant industry (although difficult to organize due to high turnover) continues to see increased union activity.

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