A majority of the store employees at the Apple Store in Oklahoma City’s Penn Square have voted to unionize. The second Apple Store to gain union representation in the US, workers voted 56-32 to unionize, and will be represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA).
Under National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rules, Apple has five business days to object to the election. If not, the company must now recognize the union and participate in the collective bargaining process, allowing the workers to negotiate their contracts.
Prior to the trade union elections, the CWA has unfair labor practices indictment to the NLRB, accusing Apple of illegal surveillance, threat and interrogation of employees at its Oklahoma City store. The complaint is currently being investigated.
“Like Starbucks, Amazon and other companies, Apple executives have spent months violating labor laws and intimidating their staff. Workers see these tactics for what they are: desperate attempts to avoid having real say in their working conditions. Money is no match for workers ready to claim their power,” CWA secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens said in an emailed statement. “Apple workers are committed to organizing for better pay and dignity at work. Despite Apple’s illegal and aggressive anti-union campaign, Apple’s retail workers across the country will continue to organize, especially after this momentous victory. The Penn Square Apple store associates are a great addition to our growing labor movement and we are delighted 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 deliver 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 US retail locations to receive union recognition. Leading up to that vote, Deirdre O’Brien, vice president of people and retail for the trillion dollar company, sent a video to 58,000 store employees warning them about the perceived downsides of unions. O’Brien reiterated anti-union discussion points, stating it would be harder to make changes in stores with a union that stands between Apple and employees — but some workers don’t think meaningful change is possible without a formally recognized negotiating unit.
As Apple rolls out more educational benefits for its store employees, the company says the union store in Maryland will have to negotiate for the benefits. The same withholding of benefits has occurred at Starbucks branch unions, which 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 offence of US labor law. The video game company Activision Blizzard also tried to withhold pay increases from workers engaged in unionization, arguing that the company followed labor laws that prohibit employers from changing pay during elections. But in that case, the NLRB also considered the trade union’s complaint to be justified.