Apple Store workers make efforts to unionize

Apple Store workers make efforts to unionize

Boosted by wages that have stagnated below the rate of inflation and emboldened by successful efforts by Starbucks employees to form unions, retail workers hope they can push the world’s most valuable company to share more its record profits with the workers who sell, repair and troubleshoot the products it sells.

Apple has more than 500 retail locations worldwide and more than 270 in the United States, according to his website. It employs over 65,000 retail workers. Sales through Apple retail stores and Apple’s website accounted for 36% of the company’s $366 billion in total revenue in fiscal 2021, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Apple has seen stunning revenue growth in recent years, bringing in $378 billion in the past calendar year, up from $240 billion in 2017. Its astronomical cash flow has allowed the company to spend tens of billion a year in stock buybacks and dividends for investors, driving up its stock price.

Retail workers polled by The Washington Post say they haven’t shared in the company’s earnings. Apple retail employees can earn anywhere from $17 to more than $30 an hour, depending on their market and position, and receive between $1,000 and about $2,000 in stock, they said. But those salaries haven’t kept up with inflation over the years, they say, which means retail workers earn less by selling more Apple products.

Employees say Apple’s hourly rates are generally in line with what other retail jobs pay in the regions where they are employed. But most other retailers don’t earn that much revenue and aren’t valued at nearly $3 trillion. Apple Store employees surveyed by The Post believe that their knowledge and passion for the products help drive sales and that they should share more fully in the company’s success.

“I have a lot of co-workers and friends that I really like and they don’t earn enough to get by,” said a union organizer who works at an Apple store. “They are struggling and they are in pain and we are working for a company that has the resources to ensure they are taken care of.”

Apple did not immediately comment.

Labor efforts at Apple Stores come as unions begin to make a comeback after decades of decline. More … than 80 Starbucks locations and counting have filed to unionize since the first store launched the trend last August, with a successful vote in December. Last month, employees at an REI store in Manhattan deposit to form a union. And employees of Raven Software, a division of Activision Blizzard, last month formed a union called the Game Workers Alliance. A year ago, Google employees formed a union, but failed to obtain certification from the NLRB.

Not all cases have been successful. In April 2021, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, voted against unionization in a closely watched test case. Workers were given a second chance to vote, after the NLRB found irregularities the first time around. The new vote will be decided next month.

Apple is known for its loyal base of more than 150,000 employees, but the fact that its retail workers want to unionize reflects how the company’s luster has faded in recent years. Some employees have increasingly expressed disapproval of Apple’s handling of allegations of discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace, as well as work-from-home policies.

Apple Store employees interviewed by The Post said the company was attractive to work for and promised management or “corporate” promotions. But these sometimes do not materialize.

Matt Herbst recently left an Apple Store in Ohio for another job partly for this reason. After starting there five years ago, he gained what the company calls “career experience,” a six-month stint at Apple headquarters in California. But the store wouldn’t allow him to go, he said, due to a labor shortage caused by the pandemic. Herbst, now 24, detailed his experience at Apple in a recent blog post.

“I think a union would be good for retail workers,” he said.

In recent weeks, Apple has offered raises to some of its retail employees. But employees at several Apple Stores said the increases in some cases backfired. Some employees got raises of less than a dollar an hour when they were hoping for more than $5. Many employees say they got raises that don’t make up for recent inflation. Due to inflation, they actually earn less money than when they started, they added.

Before officially filing the case, Apple Store organizers informally gauged staff interest, hoping that more than half of employees will vote to unionize, according to people familiar with the matter, the threshold needed to get official legal status with the NLRB.

In at least one case, store workers hoped to gain at least 80% support before formally filing a case to form a union. Indeed, organizers expect Apple to try to convince employees to vote against the union.

To avoid detection by store officials, employees meet in secret and communicate with encrypted messages, sometimes using Android phones, the competitor to Apple’s iOS operating system, to avoid possible spying by Apple. .

Apple Store employees at a store said managers have already started to dismiss employees and make speeches about how unions will hurt employees, cut their wages and force Apple to cut benefits and opportunities, as the “career experience” described by Herbst. Managers try to listen to employees, they said, while pretending to do something else.

Union organizers call this type of activity “union busting”. Starbucks, for example, recently urged its employees, whom it calls its “partners”, to vote against unionization, arguing that Starbucks could better address employee concerns by negotiate directly with them and say that a union would only get in the way.

Over 90 Starbucks stores have filed papers form unions from a store in buffalo became the first last summer. Apple Store employees hope that once the first store successfully unionizes, the others will fall like dominoes.

Retail employees are supported by a contingent of employees, including software engineers and product managers, who work at Apple Corporate, as retail employees call it. Some Apple employees donated to The Coworker Solidarity Funda nonprofit organization that has helped Apple and Netflix employees who have spoken out to criticize the companies.

This support happens in secret, as employees fear retaliation for helping to organize.

Last year, Apple fired Janneke Parrish, who helped organize #AppleToo, a movement to improve working conditions at the company, especially for traditionally underrepresented groups. Parrish said she was being investigated for leaking information from a company bringing all hands together, a charge she denies.

And Cher Scarlett, a software engineer who encouraged employees to share their salaries in a survey to expose possible pay disparities hurting underrepresented groups, claimed she was kicked out in retaliation for her efforts.

“We are and always have been deeply committed to creating and sustaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and thoroughly investigate each time a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of those involved, we do not discuss employee-specific matters,” the gatekeeper previously said. word of Apple, Josh Rosenstock.

Both Parrish and Scarlett said they have been in contact with organizers at Apple stores and support their efforts. “If the richest company in the world doesn’t pay its workers enough to live on, who will?” Scarlett said.

On December 24, Apple employees staged a walkout and launched a new website, apple togetherto help retail employees.

“Apple thinks stores are looking at organizing. I think they’re looking at how unhappy retail workers are,” Parrish said. “What they don’t know is how some of these stores are in the process.”