A majority of retail workers at the Apple Store at Penn Square in Oklahoma City have voted to unionize. The second Apple Store to win union representation in the U.S., the workers voted 56-32 in favor of forming a union, and will be represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA).
Per National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rules, Apple has five business days to file an objection to the election. If not, the company must now recognize the union and take part in the collective bargaining process, which allows the workers to negotiate their contracts.
Before the union election, the CWA filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB, accusing Apple of illegally surveilling, threatening and questioning workers at the Oklahoma City store. The complaint is currently under investigation.
“Like Starbucks, Amazon, and other corporations, Apple execs have spent months violating labor law and intimidating their workforce. Workers are seeing these tactics for what they are — desperate attempts to prevent them from having a real say in their working conditions. Money is no match for workers who are ready to claim their power,” said CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens in an emailed statement. “Apple workers are determined to organize for better wages and dignity on the job. Despite Apple’s illegal and aggressive anti-union campaign, Apple retail workers across the country will continue to organize, especially after this momentous victory. The Penn Square Apple retail workers are an amazing addition to our growing labor movement, and we are thrilled to welcome them as CWA members.”
In a statement to The New York Times, an Apple spokesperson said: “We believe the open, direct and collaborative relationship we have with our valued team members is the best way to provide an excellent experience for our customers, and for our teams.”
In June, an Apple Store in Towson, Maryland became the first of the tech giant’s U.S. retail locations to win union recognition. Leading up to that vote, the trillion-dollar company’s vice president of people and retail Deirdre O’Brien sent a video to 58,000 retail staff warning them about the perceived drawbacks of unionizing. O’Brien reiterated anti-union talking points, stating that it would be more difficult to enact change in stores with a union standing between Apple and employees — but some workers don’t think that meaningful change is possible without having a formally recognized bargaining unit.
Now, as Apple rolls out more educational perks to its retail workers, the company says that the unionized store in Maryland will have to negotiate for the benefits. This same withholding of benefits has occurred at unionizing Starbucks locations, who employ the same anti-union law firm as Apple, Littler Mendelson. In the case of Starbucks, the NLRB found merit in the complaint that this behavior was a violation of U.S. labor law. The video game company Activision Blizzard also attempted to withhold raises from employees who were in the midst of unionizing, arguing that the company was following labor laws that prohibit employers from changing compensation in the midst of elections. But in that case, the NLRB also found merit in the union’s complaint.