Apple Stores employees make an effort to form unions

Driven by wages that have stagnated below inflation, and spurred by the successful efforts of Starbucks employees to form unions, retail workers say they hope they can push the world’s most valuable company to share more of its record profits with workers who sell, repair and troubleshoot the products it sells.

Apple has more than 500 retail locations around the world and more than 270 locations in the United States, according to His website. It employs more than 65,000 retail workers. Sales through Apple’s retail stores and Apple’s website accounted for 36 percent of the company’s $366 billion in total revenue in fiscal year 2021, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Apple has seen impressive revenue growth in recent years, bringing in $378 billion in the last calendar year, compared to $240 billion in 2017. The company’s astronomical cash flow has allowed the company to spend tens of billions annually on stock buybacks and dividends for investors, raising its share price.

Retail employees interviewed by The Washington Post say they have not shared in the company’s earnings. Apple retail employees can earn anywhere between $17 to more than $30 an hour, depending on their market and location, and receive between $1,000 and about $2,000 in inventory, they said. But they say those wages have not kept pace with inflation over the years, which means retail employees are making less because they sell more Apple products.

Employees say Apple’s hourly rates are typically in line with what other retail jobs in the regions they work in. But most other retailers don’t earn a lot of revenue, nor are they valued at nearly $3 trillion. Apple Store employees interviewed by The Post believe that their knowledge and passion for products help drive sales and that they should participate fully in the company’s success.

“I have a lot of co-workers and friends that I really love who don’t make enough money,” said an entrepreneur who works in an Apple retail store. “They struggle and they get hurt and we work for a company that has the resources to make sure they are taken care of.”

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Apple had no immediate comment.

The work effort at Apple Stores comes as unions are starting to make a comeback after decades of decline. more than 80 Starbucks places and counting her Submit to the guild Since the first store started this trend last August, with a successful vote in December. Last month, employees of a REI store in Manhattan Foot to form a union. and employees at Raven Software, a division of Activision Blizzard, Formed a guild called Game Workers Alliance Last month. Google employees a year ago formed a guildbut she did not certify with the NLRB.

Not all cases were successful. In April 2021, employees at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., voted against joining unions in a closely watched test case. Workers got a second chance to vote, after the NLRB found irregularities the first time around. the new vote It will be determined sometime next month.

Apple is best known for its loyal base of more than 150,000 employees, but the fact that retail workers want to form unions reflects the way the company’s luster has faded in recent years. Some employees are increasingly disapproving of the way Apple handles alleged discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace, as well as its work-from-home policies.

Apple Store workers interviewed by The Post said the company was attractive to work for and promised promotions to management, or “the company.” But they sometimes fail to do so.

Matt Herbst recently left the Apple Store for another job, in part for this reason. Having started working there five years ago, he got a chance at what the company calls “career experience,” a six-month stint at Apple’s California headquarters. He said the store was not letting him go due to a shortage of labor at the start of the pandemic. Herbst, now 24, detailed his Apple experience at Recent blog post.

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“I think the union would be beneficial to the retail employees,” he said.

In recent weeks, Apple introduced Lifts For some retail employees. But workers at several Apple stores said the increases were counterproductive in some cases. Some employees earned raises of less than a dollar an hour, when they were hoping to get more than $5. Many employees say they have received increases that do not offset recent inflation. They added that due to inflation, they are effectively making less money than when they started.

Before formally introducing, Apple Store regulators were informally measuring interest among employees, hoping more than half of employees would vote to join unions, people familiar with the matter said, the threshold required to have formal legal standing with the NLRB.

In at least one case, store employees were hoping for at least 80 percent support before formally applying to form a union. That’s because regulators expect Apple to try to persuade employees to vote against the union.

To avoid being detected by managers in stores, employees have been meeting in secret and communicating with encrypted messages, sometimes using Android phones, a competitor to Apple’s iOS operating system, to avoid any potential intrusion by Apple.

In one store, Apple store employees said managers had already begun to push employees aside and give speeches about how unions are hurting employees, cutting their wages and forcing Apple to lay off benefits and opportunities, such as the “career experience” that Herbst described. They said managers are trying to eavesdrop on employees, while pretending to do something else.

Labor regulators refer to this type of activity as “union busting”. For example, Starbucks recently urged its employees, whom it calls “partners,” to vote against joining unions, arguing that Starbucks could better address employee concerns by Negotiate directly with them And to say that the union will block the way.

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Over 90 Starbucks Stores submitted papers To form unions since shop in Buffalo became the first last summer. Apple Store employees hope that once the first store succeeds in unionization, the others will fall like dominoes.

Retail workers get support from a range of employees, including software engineers and product managers, who work for Apple, as they are called retail workers. Some Apple employees donated to Co-worker Solidarity Funda nonprofit organization that has helped Apple and Netflix employees who have spoken out to criticize the companies.

This support happens behind the scenes, because employees are afraid of facing retaliation for helping them organize the work.

Last year Apple Release Yannick Parrish, who helped organize #AppleToo, a movement aimed at improving working conditions at the company, particularly for less traditionally represented groups. Parish said she is under investigation for leaking information from a company meeting to all hands, a charge she has denied.

Cher Scarlett, a software engineer who encouraged employees to share their paychecks in a survey to expose potential pay disparities hurting underrepresented groups, claimed she was fired in retaliation for her efforts.

“We are deeply committed, and always remain, to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive work environment. We take all concerns seriously and thoroughly investigate each time concerns are raised, and out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved,” said former Apple spokesperson Josh Rosenstock. We do not discuss specific personnel issues.”

Both Parrish and Scarlett said they are in touch with regulators at Apple’s retail stores and support their efforts. “If the world’s richest company doesn’t pay enough for its workers to live, who will?” Scarlett said.

On December 24, Apple retail employees staged a strike and launched a new website, apple togetherTo help retail employees.

“Apple thinks the stores are looking to get regulated. I think they are looking at how unhappy retail workers are,” Barish said.

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