Workers in at least eight Apple Stores are reportedly on the brink of filing the necessary paperwork to try and unionize, meaning the labor movement that’s been sweeping America has finally arrived on the doorstep of the world’s most valuable company. The organizers have apparently been at it for a while: the Washington Post reports today that groups in at least two Apple Stores have the backing of major national unions, and expect to file their formal petitions with the National Labor Relations Board soon. The report adds that at least six additional Apple Stores are “at less-advanced stages.”
Hourly workers’ frustrations over pay, benefits, and well-being have been driving the country’s union explosion. Workers in Amazon warehouses are trying to unionize, baristas in dozens of Starbucks cafes are too, and tens of thousands of unionized workers at John Deere, Frito-Lay, and Kellogg have participated in strikes.
Apple Store employees tell the Post that “now is the time” for them, too. Their employer’s revenue growth has been tremendous in recent years. Apple hit $378 billion in sales last year, compared to $240 billion back in 2017. That means five years later, the company is making about 58% more revenue—yet retail employees say their own wages in the interim haven’t even kept pace with inflation.
The idea of Apple Stores becoming unionized would have seemed unbelievable not long ago. Apple is big and powerful, and also doesn’t have the union-crushing history that Amazon and Starbucks do. And while everyone knows Apple’s engineers and designers in Cupertino are well paid and get showered in perks, Apple Store employees reportedly earn between $17 and $30 an hour, also above average for retail.
But employees tell the Post the company is already moving to nip their organizing in the bud. They say at one store, managers are already aware of the effort, and have begun explaining to team members that unionizing probably won’t fix their problems, and might even lower their wages or force Apple to reduce benefits and other opportunities.
The temperature internally has been rising for months, even beyond the retail side. In August, a group called Apple Together formed; it says it represents 100,000 U.S. Apple employees, and it sent out an open letter to Tim Cook and other senior leaders asking them to improve working conditions, and hold leaders accountable for controversial actions. “Hundreds of us have documented our stories of abuse, discrimination, and harassment,” the letter read. “Hundreds of us have documented reporting our stories through internal channels, and receiving no relief.” Two days before Christmas, the group also staged a walkout:
Calling all Apple workers and patrons!
Tomorrow, December 24th, 2021, Apple workers are staging a walkout/callout to demand better working conditions.
Strike funds are available for participants: https://t.co/xYESzWc196.
— Apple Together (@AppleLaborers) December 23, 2021
Apple Store workers tell the Post their goal is to push their company, which is valued at almost $3 trillion, to share its record-setting profits with retail employees. “I have a lot of co-workers and friends who I genuinely love and they do not make enough to get by,” one organizer said. “They’re struggling, and they’re hurting, and we work for a company that has the resources to make sure that they’re taken care of.”