Apple staff at a store in Maryland have made a historic decision and voted to unionize.
Employees at the store in Baltimore voted to unionize by a roughly 2-to-1 majority on Saturday, June 18, joining a rising movement across the retail, service, and technology industries in the United States to organize for improved labor rights.
However, analysts warn that the present lack of workers for hourly and low-wage positions means staff have more power than in the past, particularly when unemployment is low.
Ruth Milkman, labor scholar at the City University of New York said: “It’s not that big a deal to lose one of these jobs because you can get another crummy job.”
Workers in Towson, Maryland, voted 65-33 to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
The decision must now be certified by the National Labor Relations Board.
Initial questions regarding the decision were directed to the board’s regional office, which was closed late Saturday.
Once the vote is validated, the union and Apple may begin contract negotiations.
Michael Duff, a former NLRB lawyer and professor at University of Wyoming College of Law, said: “Labor law in the United States is a long process. And so the fact that a single store negotiates or elects a union doesn’t mean that there’s a negotiated contract in the workplace.
“And we know in recent history that in many of these situations, parties are unable to come to terms on an initial contract.”
“The employer in the United States has an awful lot of rights to simply withdraw recognition at the end of the process. The employer can prove that it no longer supports a majority of the employees in the bargaining unit,”
Even if a union is authorized, a firm has a lot of legal options to combat it, according to Duff.
For instance, Apple could say it does not feel the NLRB-certified bargaining unit is an acceptable bargaining unit.
It’s also feasible that Apple — or any other corporation — restructures its operations such that unionized staff are deemed to be independent contractors rather than employees, rendering the union vote irrelevant.
The successful vote serves to inspire workers around the country to organize, said John Logan, director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University.
Logan said: “Workers are already organizing at other Apple stores, but this shows them the company is not invincible. Apple’s well-known brand name is also likely to help.”
Logan said. “The public has a very direct relationship with companies like Apple, so the first union victory will generate enormous traditional media and social media coverage.
“Young workers learn union activism through this coverage, and some will likely be inspired to try to organize their own workplaces.”
Despite U.S. labor law being stacked against workers, Duff said he thinks that “if there is going to be a reawakened labor movement in the United States it will happen in just this way.”
IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. said: “I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory.
“They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election.”
Martinez urged Apple to acknowledge the results of the vote and allow unionizing employees to expedite attempts to win a contract at the Towson facility.