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Apple, known for its sleek gadgets and high-tech innovations, has found itself embroiled in a battle with its own employees over unionization. According to reports, the tech giant is determined to prevent its retail staff from unionizing, using the events of the Towson store as a warning to others.
Despite efforts to prevent unions from forming, some physical Apple stores have seen unions emerge. Efforts in Towson and Oklahoma City have resulted in unions, while others such as in Atlanta and St. Louis have seemingly stalled progress.
Over the last two weeks, managers at Apple’s U.S. stores have met with staff members to discuss the risks of unionization, and to offer an update on bargaining between Apple and the Towson, Maryland store. According to Mark Gurman’s “Power On” newsletter for Bloomberg, the efforts so far have curtailed the union momentum.
During the meetings, management described the Towson store as a cautionary tale to other staff members, sharing details of the union representing Towson employees, IAM, requesting 1.5% of pay as dues, and that under union proposals, employees who didn’t comply with payment could end up terminated within a month.
There were also allegations that managers at the store were giving more priority to full-time employees who wanted weekends off, putting pressure on part-timers to work those periods instead, and that longer-tenured employees would be prioritized over newer employees.
Managers also criticized union representatives for the St. Louis Apple Store for allegedly misleading workers, warning that authorization card signatures were binding documents and not a detail-gathering exercise for unions.
Negotiations between Apple and the Towson store have been ongoing, but so far, no common ground has been found with the 20 proposals from the store and the two from the iPhone maker. One proposal agreed upon by Apple was an update to the nondiscrimination policy that adds the union won’t tolerate discrimination.
Among the proposals rejected by Apple include weekly pay instead of biweekly pay, using a third-party arbitrator, a respect and dignity clause, scheduling policy changes, and basing promotions and layoffs on tenure. Negotiations are ongoing over health and safety, staff training, and determining what happens if a store permanently closes.
According to the Huffington Post, the meetings in a hotel in downtown Baltimore have been fruitless, with workers believing Apple doesn’t want to make any deals with a unionized store. Store employee Kevin Gallagher stated, “They are fighting us at every step of the process. It feels like they’re trying to drag this out as long as they can”.
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Some Towson employees were outraged when they discovered managers were sharing some of the union’s proposals with other stores, with bargaining committee Billy Jarboe insisting the proposals were cherry-picked and taken out of context to make the union look as bad as possible.
“There’s a great plan to dismantle this movement and invalidate it in any ways they can”, Jarboe claimed. It remains to be seen how this ongoing battle will play out, but it’s clear that Apple is determined to prevent its retail staff from unionizing, while employees are equally determined to fight for their rights.