Apple’s latest feature could soon be unions. The labour movement that’s been popping up at recognisable names in business has officially come to the tech giant: workers at Apple’s Grand Central retail store have begun the process of unionization, according to a story by The Washington Post.
Reports first surfaced back in February that Apple retail employees were preparing to unionize, and now Grand Central workers are collecting signatures to see whether there’s broad interest in forming one. The announcement comes less than three weeks after the Amazon warehouse workers of Staten Island’s JFK8 voted to unionize, in a historic labour victory, less than two months after employees at REI’s Soho retail store voted to unionize, and amid an ongoing union push at Activision Blizzard.
The Apple store’s organising committee, made up of about 10% of store workers at the time, voted two months ago to affiliate with the national labour union Workers United, the same organisation that has supported a string of successful Starbucks’ retail store unionizations.
The store’s eligible workers will soon vote on whether they want to unionize. If a majority vote yes, it would be the first successful union election at an Apple retail location. Apple can either voluntarily recognise the union, or take the path of most resistance and try to fight it. The Post reported that workers from at least three other Apple Store locations are also in the early stages of trying to unionize.
The organising Apple store employees have called themselves “Fruit Stand Workers United,” and cited the pandemic and the rising cost of living as two of the primary reasons for the union push. On their website, the group declares, “Grand Central is an extraordinary store with unique working conditions that make a union necessary to ensure our team has the best possible standards of living in what have proven to be extraordinary times with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and once-in-a-generation consumer price inflation.”
There are more than 500 Apple store locations globally, and more than 270 in the U.S. The company employs more than 65,000 workers in its retail stores and recently made $US366 ($508) billion in total revenue in the last fiscal year, according to The Washington Post.
Apple is the world’s most valuable company, worth more than $US2.7 ($4) trillion, according to Bloomberg. And store workers say their compensation doesn’t match, even as Apple’s revenue continues to grow. Employees interviewed by The Post said retail workers are paid between $US17 ($24) and $US30 ($42) per hour, a rate in line with other retail companies that aren’t nearly as profitable, while an Apple representative said the starting retail hourly wage is $US20 ($28).
In a statement to the Post, Apple said it is “deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters.”
Meanwhile, in their online organising mission statement, the Fruit Stand Workers United stated, “When [Apple] decide[s] what we’re paid, what benefits we receive, the career paths we can access, and the safety of our workplace, we want a say. Working with a labour union will give us the legal right to representation in all matters of employment, leave, working conditions and compensation. These are the factors that determine the quality of our lives, our ability to start and raise healthy, happy families, and the trajectory of our movement through the world. These decisions determine, in large part, what we can become. They should be ours. They should belong to us.”