Apple will have a union in their American homeland for the first time: As it became known over the weekend, employees at a branch of the electronics company near Baltimore spoke out in favor of formal employee representation with a clear majority. There were 65 votes for and 33 against.
The vote only affects this business and therefore only a small part of the American workforce. Apple has a total of around 270 stores in the United States. But there are also efforts to organize in a number of other locations, for example in the branch in New York’s Grand Central train station.
Unions hope there will be a domino effect at Apple similar to that seen recently at Starbucks coffee chain. Last December, employees of an American branch voted for the establishment of a union for the first time. This has become a broader movement, and there have now been votes in favor of unions in around 150 of the 9,000 US locations.
Unions have also recently been able to celebrate successes in other prominent companies. In April, employees at a warehouse for online retailer Amazon.com in New York voted for employee representation. It is the company’s first in the United States. In contrast to Starbucks, unions have not been able to follow suit there. In another vote at another New York location in May, employees voted against a union. Amazon has also lodged a complaint against the vote in the first warehouse, so the last word has not been spoken here either.
At Apple, as at Amazon and Starbucks, unions are facing corporate resistance. For example, employees at Amazon and Starbucks reported being required to attend events where the disadvantages of unionization were discussed. In the case of Apple, a video recently became public in which HR and retail boss Deirdre O’Brien tries to dissuade employees from forming unions. In it, she expresses her concern “if another organization comes between us,” warning that it could limit Apple’s own ability to improve the work environment.
The Communications Workers of America (CWA) union, which wanted to help employees at an Apple store in Atlanta form an employee representative body, has accused the company of intimidation tactics. A vote was also planned in Atlanta, but employees initially withdrew a corresponding request, saying that the vote could be made up for at a later date.
Apple, meanwhile, has announced an increase in the minimum wage in its stores from $20 to $22 an hour amid mounting union campaigns. The group initially did not comment on the voting result in Baltimore.