Apple retail store employees in Townson, Maryland, voted to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, becoming the first store location to join a union.
Out of the 110 employees that were eligible to vote, 65 voted in favor and 33 opposed. Once the results are certified by the National Labor Relations Board, Apple will be forced to negotiate the working conditions of its employees with the union.
“To be clear, the decision to form a union is about us as workers gaining access to rights that we do not currently have,” Towson organizers noted in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
The store employees’ decision to band together marks a major defeat for Apple, which has been opposing unionization efforts.
For one, employees at the Townson store were discouraged by Apple’s Head of Retail and HR, Deirdre O’Brien, from voting in favor of joining the union. In an audio message to store employees, O’Brien said that unionization would make it more challenging for the company to address its employees’ various concerns.
“I want to start out by saying it’s your right to join a union, but it’s equally your right not to join a union,” O’Brien said.
“If you’re faced with that decision, I want to encourage you to consult a wide range of people and sources to understand what it could be like to work at Apple under a collective bargaining agreement.”
The Townson store location’s decision to join a union could energize other store locations that are soon planning to vote. These locations include high-traffic stores at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and World Trade Center, as well as stores in Louisville, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee. Another store located in Atlanta, Georgia, has postponed its vote after employees at the store location were allegedly intimidated by Apple, CNBC reported.
Some key issues that have encouraged employees at these store locations to unionize include COVID safety rules and higher wages to keep up with the increased cost of living. Apple Store employees currently make a minimum wage of $20 per hour.