Apple store workers in Maryland win vote to form company’s first US union

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A group of Apple retail employees has voted to unionise, marking the first union for the consumer tech giant in the US, as a burgeoning labour movement gathers momentum across the country.

Employees at the store in Towson, a town in Maryland outside the city of Baltimore, voted to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) by 65 votes to 33, according to the Associated Press.

Towson is one of several Apple stores where union drives are taking place and the first to hold a vote. The vote began on Wednesday and concluded on Saturday.

The results still have to be ratified by the National Labor Relations Board, which did not return a request for comment on Saturday. Apple did not return a request for comment.

The group’s victory follows successful union drives at other American corporate giants, including Amazon, Starbucks and Google parent Alphabet.

While small in scale, the unionisation wave has gathered momentum at companies that had until recently managed to fend off organised labour, with union-busting techniques and a partial reliance on a less competitive jobs market than exists in today’s post-pandemic economy.

The group of Apple workers at the store — known collectively as the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE) — wrote a letter to Apple chief executive Tim Cook in May informing the company of its campaign. “The decision to form a union is about us as workers gaining access to rights that we do not currently have,” the letter said.

On Saturday, videos from Towson posted on social media showed jubilant employees punching the air as they left court.

“We did it Towson! We won our union vote!” wrote CORE on Twitter. “Thanks to all who worked so hard and all who supported! Now we celebrate with @machinistsunion. Tomorrow we keep organising.”

IAM president Robert Martinez Jr called on Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook to immediately recognise the union and begin contract negotiations.

“I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory,” Martinez said in a statement.

“They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election. I ask Apple CEO Tim Cook to respect the election results and fast-track a first contract for the dedicated IAM CORE Apple employees in Towson.”

He added: “This victory shows the growing demand for unions at Apple stores and different industries across our nation.”

The company has experienced unionisation drives in other countries, including at an Apple store in Glasgow, where some workers this month opted to join the GMB Union.

The Towson victory could jump-start unionisations across Apple’s 272 US stores, with workers at the iPhone maker adopting the same vigour as Starbucks baristas. Staff at more than 100 Starbuck’s stores have voted to unionise in the past six months, following the first successful vote in Buffalo, New York.

On Friday, Starbucks announced that Rossann Williams, head of North America and the executive leading efforts to contain unionisation, is leaving the company.

News of her departure came just a week after Amazon announced that Dave Clark, head of worldwide consumer, is also stepping down. Clark had overseen Amazon’s logistics operation and was its most prominent executive handling labour matters.

In April, workers at a facility in Staten Island became the first in Amazon’s history to vote to join a union. Amazon is in the process of challenging that result with labour officials, claiming unfair interference by leaders of the Amazon Labor Union.

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