retail workers in Oklahoma City voted to unionize, becoming the second group of employees at one of the iPhone maker’s U.S. stores to organize officially.
The group, which calls itself the Penn Square Labor Alliance, plans to join the Communications Workers of America. The Apple store located at Oklahoma City’s Penn Square Mall has a total of about 100 employees eligible for union membership.
“Now that we’ve won the election, it is our hope that management will come to the table so that we may collectively work towards building a company that prioritizes workers over profit and encourages employees to thrive,” said Charity Lassiter, an employee at the Oklahoma City store and a member of the organizing committee, in a statement.
Employees voted 56 to 32 in favor of joining a union, according to a ballot count Friday evening released by the National Labor Relations Board.
An Apple spokesman said in a statement: “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. We’re proud to provide our team members with strong compensation and exceptional benefits.”
The vote follows a successful unionization push in June at an Apple Store in Towson, Md., a suburb of Baltimore. Those employees joined the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. At an Atlanta retail location, organizers withdrew a petition to vote on unionization in May.
More U.S. companies have faced unionization efforts over the past year, including at
Unions are pushing to grow as companies struggle with labor shortages and workers demand more from their employers. Private-sector union membership has been facing a long-term decline. A record low of 6.1% of workers were members of a union in the private sector in 2021, according to the Labor Department.
Before the vote in Oklahoma City, the Communications Workers of America filed an unfair labor practice charge against Apple with the National Labor Relations Board. The union group alleged that Apple store managers at the Penn Square location conducted illegal surveillance and interrogated workers.
“We disagree with the union’s claims and look forward to presenting the facts,” an Apple spokesman said.
Apple has sought to persuade workers not to unionize. Over the past week, managers at the Oklahoma City store began telling employees about improved benefits it plans to offer including funding for educational opportunities, outside education and healthcare. Managers told workers that the sole unionized Apple store in Maryland will have to negotiate for those same benefits, according to Steven Meyer, a retail-store employee at the Oklahoma City location and one of the union organizers.
Bloomberg earlier reported about Apple’s communication about the additional benefits.
Apple retail workers at other stores have tried to unionize, including locations in New York City and Atlanta. While the Atlanta workers in May withdrew a petition to vote on unionization, organizers have said they might seek to hold a vote at a later time. In New York, the federal labor agency recently issued a complaint against Apple that it had allegedly prohibited the placement of pro-union fliers in the employee break room and interrogated workers about their support of a union.
In the midst of the growing unionization push and inflation, Apple boosted pay for U.S. hourly workers in May to $22 an hour, a 45% increase from 2018.
Write to Aaron Tilley at [email protected]
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