An employee organizes Apple iPhones as a customer shop in an Apple store.
Mike Segar | Reuters
Employees at an Apple store in Towson, Md., voted on Saturday to join a union, a significant achievement for organized labor that could encourage employees at other Apple stores to unionize. The Towson store is the first unionized Apple store in the United States
The vote is a defeat for Apple, which has opposed organizing efforts, and could spur workers at the company’s other outlets to press ahead with unionization.
The count was 65 votes in favor and 33 against. About 110 employees were eligible to vote to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Voting began on Wednesday and continued until Saturday evening.
“We did it Towson! We won our union vote! Thank you to everyone who worked so hard and everyone who supported! Towson organizers tweeted.
The National Labor Relations Board has yet to certify the votes. It could take about a week. Apple is required to negotiate with the union on working conditions after the vote is certified, according to the NLRB.
The Towson store is not one of Apple’s so-called “flagship” stores in high-traffic areas of major cities. It’s a smaller place inside a mall.
The store caught the attention of Apple management as soon as the workers announced their intention to unionize. Apple’s head of retail and human resources, Deirdre O’Brien, visited the scene in May. A recorded message from O’Brien distributed to employees after the union campaigns went public discouraged retail workers from unionizing, saying it would make it harder for Apple to address employee concerns. She said unions are not committed to company employees.
Workers are demanding more information on wages and working conditions, such as how stores are handling Covid safety and other operations.
“To be clear, the decision to form a union is about us, as workers, gaining rights we currently don’t have,” Towson organizers wrote in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
The Towson store is one of several Apple stores that have publicly announced labor campaigns, and other retail organizers at other locations are watching its results closely. Two high-traffic, high-volume stores in New York City, the Grand Central Terminal and World Trade Center locations, have signaled they are unionizing, but have yet to reach the stage of an official vote.
A store in Atlanta, Georgia, was due to hold an election earlier this month, which was postponed indefinitely after the union, Communication Workers of America, alleged that Apple intimidated its employees. Stores in Louisville, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee are also getting organized, according to NBC News.
The Towson store’s Apple retail syndicate is unlikely to undermine Apple’s core business model of selling devices and services. While Apple Stores are a key channel for selling products, Apple also sells through its website and retail partners like carriers. Apple’s hourly workforce is smaller than that of other companies currently facing waves of labor campaigns, such as Amazon and Starbucks.
Apple is one of the most profitable companies in the world. It reported more than $365 billion in global sales in 2021 and says its retail employees in the United States earn at least $22 an hour.