The First Apple Store in the United States Files for Union Election

Apple retail workers in Atlanta could become the first in the nation to vote to unionize.
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On the Clock is Motherboard's reporting on the organized labor movement, gig work, automation, and the future of work.

An Apple Store in Atlanta has filed for a union election with the Communications Workers of America, becoming the first of Apple’s 272 brick-and-mortar stores in the country to do so. 

According to a source with knowledge of the campaign, 70 percent of workers at the Cumberland Mall Apple Store location in northwest Atlanta have signed cards authorizing the union to hold an election. Unions need signed authorizations cards from 30 percent of eligible employees to qualify to hold a union election. According to Bloomberg Law, the proposed union would have 107 members.

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“A number of us have been here for many years, and we don’t think you stick at a place unless you love it,” said Derrick Bowles, an Apple Genius worker at the unionizing Apple store in Atlanta in a written statement. “Apple is a profoundly positive place to work, but we know that the company can better live up to their ideals and so we’re excited to be joining together with our coworkers to bring Apple to the negotiating table and make this an even better place to work.”

If the majority of workers at the Cumberland Mall location vote to unionize, the store would become the first unionized Apple retail location in the United States, and could inspire workers at other Apple stores to organize.

Do you work at Apple and have a tip to share about worker organizing? Please get in touch with Lauren Gurley, the reporter, via email lauren.gurley@vice.com or securely on Signal 201-897-2109.

The news coincides with a wave of burgeoning and growing union drives at Apple stores at least half a dozen Apple store locations, including locations in New York City and Maryland. Apple store employees are unionizing with at least three different national unions, a reflection of the siloed nature of Apple’s retail store locations. The CWA campaign is part of CODE-CWA, an initiative to unionize tech and games workers, and has members from Activision-Blizzard and Google.

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The efforts to unionize Apple stores coincide with a wave of high profile unionization campaigns led by Gen Z and Millennial workers at high profile corporations that have long seemed impervious to unionization such as Amazon, Google, Starbucks, and Activision Blizzard.  

Broadly, Apple retail workers say they want to push Apple, the world’s most valuable company, to share more of its profits with its frontline workers who sell and repair iPhones, MacBooks, and iPads. 

The news coincides with the announcement that Apple store workers in Grand Central Station in New York City are unionizing with Workers United, which is also unionizing Starbucks baristas. Last week, the Grand Central Station union drive went public with the name “Fruit Stand Workers United,” with demands that include a $30 an hour minimum wage, tuition reimbursement, faster accruing vacation time, and higher 401K matching from Apple. The current minimum hourly rate at Apple stores is $20 an hour. (‘Fruit Stand’ is an internal nickname Apple store workers at Grand Central Station use to refer to their workplace.) The union has not yet petitioned for an election. 

Workers at the Grand Central Station location say management at the store is trying to convince workers that Apple retail workers don’t need a union. 

“We welcome the workers who are organizing at Apple and call on the company’s management to reject union busting tactics so that they can vote without interference or intimidation,” said Ed Barlow, President of CWA Local 3204 in Atlanta. “These workers have been indispensable during the pandemic and the high level of service and support they provide is critical to Apple’s success. By having a union voice, they will be able to negotiate lasting improvements to their working conditions.”