Atlanta Apple Store Employees Pause Union Organizing Push

Apple Store workers in Atlanta, Georgia have paused organizing efforts that could have resulted in the first unionized Apple Store in the U.S. The matter was scheduled to be put to vote this month, but the Communications Workers of America withdrew the request, citing the safety of Cumberland Mall workers amidst a COVID-19 surge and charges of union busting by Apple. At least three other U.S. Apple Stores are holding union drives, according to reports. Workers at a Towson, Maryland location are scheduled to vote June 15, with New York City’s Grand Central Terminal Apple Store also teeing-up, union leaders say.

In addition to the threat of pandemic-related illness, the CWA has alleged in a statement that Apple violated labor laws “and made a fair election impossible,” CNBC reports, adding that “the development is a setback for the nascent organizing effort at Apple’s retail locations.

The New York Times cited one employee who “championed the union because she thought it could boost hourly pay and increase full-time opportunities for a largely part-time staff.” But after helping to rally support “from 70 percent of the store’s 100-plus workers for a union election,” her boss pushed back and “she could sense that support beginning to fray,” NYT writes.

Apple has about 270 stores across the U.S. The company has hired employment law firm Littler Mendelson “to blunt the labor push,” according to NYT, which quotes Apple senior vice president of retail Deirdre O’Brien as expressing concern over “what it would mean to put another organization in the middle of our relationship, an organization that does not have a deep understanding of Apple or our business” in a video created for the company’s nearly 65,000 retail employees.

Last week, Apple management offered an hourly wage increase to $22 an hour from $20 as an incentive to keep the status quo. NYT reports that “the company provided numerous benefits to retail employees, including healthcare, tuition reimbursement and family leave.” “We deeply value everything they bring to Apple,” said company spokesman Josh Rosenstock.

But CNBC offered a different perspective, quoting a CWA statement that accuses Apple of having “conducted a systematic, sophisticated campaign to intimidate” and create a “coercive environment.”

The Cumberland Mall Organizing Committee minced no words in writing that “it’s an outrage and a shame that Apple chose to spend tens of thousands of dollars to pay a third party, outside ‘union avoidance’ law firm, abandon its professed values, and aggressively and deceitfully union bust in our store,” according to CNBC, which says “the Atlanta store organizers will ‘reset’ and will work with other stores to prepare them for future union drives.”

Apple Supplier Faces Worker Revolt in Locked Down China Factory, Bloomberg, 5/27/22
Apple Discourages Retail Employees from Joining Unions in Internal Video, CNBC, 5/25/22

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