Saturday, July 2, 2022

Maryland Apple employees face roadblocks after vote to unionize

TOWSON, Md. ( Associated Press) – The historic vote by Maryland Apple Store employees to unionize – a first for the technology giant – is a significant step in a long process that labor experts say is stacking heavily in favor of workers against their employers. Is .

Apple Store employees in a Baltimore suburb voted Saturday to unionize by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, joining growing pressure in the US retail, service and tech industries to organize for greater workplace safety Gone.

It is not yet clear whether the recent wave of unions represents a sweeping change in American labor. But experts say the current shortage of workers for hourly and low-wage jobs means employees have historically had more power, especially when unemployment is low.

“Losing one of these jobs is no big deal because you can get another crummy job,” said Ruth Milkman, a labor scholar at the City University of New York.

The question is what will happen now?

The union announcement said that Apple’s retail employees in Towson, Maryland, voted 65-33 to enter the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The National Labor Relations Board now has to certify the result. A spokesman referred initial questions about the vote to the board’s regional office, which was closed late Saturday. The board did not immediately respond to a message from the Associated Press on Sunday.

Once the vote is certified, the union and Apple can begin negotiating a contract.

“Labor law in the United States is a lengthy process. And so the fact that a single store negotiates or elects to have a union does not mean that there is a settlement contract in the workplace. And we look at recent history. I am aware that in many of these situations, the parties are unable to come to an initial contract,” Michael Duff, a former NRLB attorney and University of Wyoming College of Law professor, said Sunday.

“Employers in the United States have a lot of authority to withdraw recognition at the end of the process. The employer can prove that it no longer supports the majority of employees in the bargaining unit,” Duff said.

Duff said that even after a union is certified, a company still has several legal maneuvers to fight it. For example, Apple may state that it does not believe that a bargaining entity certified by the NLRB is a suitable bargaining entity. and refused to bargain with the union.

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Duff said, “If that happens, the whole thing goes to the courts and it could easily be a year or two before you even ask whether employers need to bargain with the union. “

Labor experts say it’s common for employers to drag out the bargaining process in an effort to gain momentum from union campaigns. It’s also possible that as Apple — or any other company — restructures its business, unionized workers are reclassified as independent contractors and not employees, in which case the union vote is controversial, Duff said.

Apple declined to comment on Saturday’s development, company spokesman Josh Lipton told The Associated Press over the phone. Apple, who arrived again on Sunday, did not comment.

John Logan, director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University, said the successful vote motivates workers across the country to organize.

“Activists are already organizing at other Apple stores, but this shows that the company is not invincible,” he said.

Apple’s well-known brand name is also likely to help.

“The public has a very direct relationship with companies like Apple, so the first union victory will increase traditional media and social media coverage,” Logan said. “Young workers learn union activism through this coverage, and some will be inspired to try to organize their own workplaces.”

Despite the US labor law being pitted against workers, Duff said she thinks “if there’s going to be a rekindled labor movement in the United States it’s going to be this way.”

Union organizing in various fields has gained momentum recently, after decades of decline in American union membership. Organizers have worked to unionize companies including Amazon, Starbucks, Google’s parent company Alphabet and external retailer REI.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and Apple employees who wanted to join said they had sent a notice last month to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking for a union. The statement said his driving motivation is “to seek rights we do not currently have.” It states that workers recently organized into coalitions, or corps, of organized retail workers.

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“I appreciate the courage displayed by core members at the Apple Store in Towson to achieve this historic victory,” IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. said in the statement. “He made a huge sacrifice for the thousands of Apple employees across the country who were watching this election.”

Martinez called on Apple to respect the election results and let unionizing employees fast-track efforts to secure a contract at the Towson location.

IAM bills itself as one of the largest and most diverse industrial trade unions in North America, representing approximately 600,000 active and retired members in the aerospace, defense, airlines, railroad, transit, healthcare, automotive and other industries. does. Logan said Apple’s victory shows that the established labor movement has been able to “adapt itself to the needs of the group of independent-minded, self-confident workers you find at Apple Stores.”

The Apple Store unionization vote comes against the backdrop of other labor organizing efforts across the country – some of them rebuffed.

Amazon employees at a New York City warehouse voted to unionize in April, the first successful US organizing effort in the retail giant’s history. However, workers at another Amazon warehouse on Staten Island overwhelmingly rejected the union bid last month. Meanwhile, Starbucks employees at dozens of US stores have voted to unionize in recent months, after two of the coffee chain’s stores in Buffalo, New York, voted to unionize late last year.

Many unionization efforts have been led by youth activists in their 20s and even in their teens. A group of Google engineers and other workers formed the Alphabet Workers Union last year, which represents about 800 Google employees and is run by five people under 35.

“It’s the kind of generation in the world that’s really different than anything we’ve seen in many generations,” CUNY’s Milkman said. “They believe in it.”

Nation World News Desk
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