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Apple workers in Maryland Store vote to unite, a first in the United States

Apple employees at a store in the Baltimore area have voted to get organized, making it the first of the company’s more than 270 stores in the United States to join a work organization trend sweeping through retailers, restaurants and technology companies.

The result, announced on Saturday by the National Labor Relations Board, provides a foothold for a burgeoning movement among Apple employees who want a bigger vote on pay and Covid-19 policies. Employees of more than two dozen Apple stores have expressed interest in the union in recent months, union leaders said.

In the election, 65 employees at Apple’s store in Towson, Md., Voted to be represented by the union, known as the Apple Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, while 33 voted against. It will be part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, an industrial union representing over 300,000 employees.

“I applaud the courage shown by CORE members in the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory,” said Robert Martinez Jr., president of IAM International, in a statement. “They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the country who had their eyes on this election.”

Tyra Reeder, a technical specialist who has worked in the Towson store for just over six months, said she was “excited” about the result and that she hoped a union would help increase workers’ compensation; stabilize store planning, which has been strained by recent Covid-19 cases; and make it easier for workers to advance in the enterprise.

“We love our jobs. We just want to see them do better, Reeder said.

The result is a blow to Apple’s campaign to slow down trade unionism by claiming that it pays more than many retailers and offers a number of benefits, including healthcare and stock subsidies. Last month, it raised the starting salary for retail employees to $ 22 an hour, from $ 20, and released a video of Deirdre O’Brien, who runs the Apple store, warning employees that joining a union could hurt the company’s business.

Apple declined to comment.

Towson employees said in a video ahead of the union vote that Apple’s anti-union campaign there was “disgusting” and included management who told workers that unions once banned black workers from joining their ranks. In the weeks before the vote, O’Brien visited the store and thanked everyone for their hard work.

Shortly afterwards, employees said that their managers began to encourage employees to air their concerns in meetings and help find solutions to their complaints. They also began pulling employees to one-on-one meetings where executives highlighted the cost of union dues, said Eric Brown, a Towson employee who is active in union work.

Earlier this month, employees of a store in Atlanta left a planned election when support for the union failed after Apple’s move to increase wages and highlight the benefits it provided. The union organizers in Atlanta have filed a formal charge with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Apple of requiring workers to listen to anti-union messages during mandatory meetings. The board has not yet decided whether the charge is justified.

Reeder said workers in Atlanta had helped prepare union supporters in the Towson store to neutralize the company’s hotspots. “We kind of got some insight from the Atlanta store about things to come,” she said, citing the company’s proposal that employees could lose certain benefits during a contract negotiation if they were unionized.

“For that to happen, the majority of us must agree,” Reeder added. “I do not think any of us will agree to lose something we love dearly, it will benefit us.”

At Starbucks, one of the companies where organizers have gained the most momentum, employees credited a vote to organize in a store in Buffalo to help encourage other stores to run for union election. Since the vote in December, more than 150 of the company’s approximately 9,000 business-owned stores in the United States have voted to become a union, according to NLRB

Employees in stores that were later organized contacted Buffalo employees for advice on how to navigate the process.

“Workers gain interest and courage if workers elsewhere win,” said William Gould, a law professor at Stanford University and author of “For Labor to Build Upon: Wars, Depression and Pandemic.” “Many people look to see: Can workers succeed? Will they merge? If the answer is in the affirmative, it will encourage other workers to take a step towards collective bargaining. “

Workers’ ability to win a contract may depend on whether the promotion spreads to other stores. Union supporters at Starbucks have said that one of their biggest sources of influence over the company is the fact that they continue to win elections around the country.

Amazon workers who helped organize a Staten Island department store in April have also said they would benefit from more department stores following suit. The company challenges the result of that vote for the work board. With only one place in the United States that has been formally organized, the company can focus resources on opposing the union there.

Apple employees also organize in the Grand Central Terminal store in New York and a store in Louisville, Ky. These stores build support before asking for choices. Organizers in Atlanta have said they plan to revive the election in the future.

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