Apr 16, 2022 - Technology

Apple workers at flagship store in NYC take steps to unionize

People shop in an Apple retail store in Grand Central Terminal, January 3, 2019 in New York City.

Apple's retail store in Grand Central Terminal, New York City. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Workers at Apple's flagship retail store in New York City's Grand Central Terminal have taken steps toward forming a union, per a website update by organizers.

Why it matters: If organizers were successful, this would be the first Apple retail store to unionize, per the Washington Post, which first reported on the move Saturday.

Driving the news: The Pacific Blue Collar Organizing Committee (OC) said in the website update that workers at the Manhattan store voted on Feb. 21 to affiliate with Workers United, a national labor union that the site notes has helped Starbucks workers successfully unionize across the U.S.

  • The website states that "Apple Stores in the United States are organizing," and WashPost reports that workers at "at least three other" of the iphone-maker's retail stores in the U.S. are moving to unionize.
  • "Grand Central is an extraordinary store with unique working conditions that make a union necessary to ensure our team has the best possible standards of living in what have proven to be extraordinary times," per the website.
  • The site links out to a report on Apple temporarily closing in-store shopping in North American locations including New York City last December due to COVID-19 spikes and an article on inflation reaching a new 40-year high in February to support its point.

What they're saying: Apple hasn't confirmed whether or not it would support moves by its workers to unionize, but said in a statement to WashPost that the company is "fortunate to have incredible retail team members and we deeply value everything they bring to Apple."

  • "We are pleased to offer very strong compensation and benefits for full time and part time employees, including health care, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, annual stock grants and many other benefits," the statement added.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Ina Fried: Among all the tech companies, Apple is known for being the most secretive and imposing strict limits on what Apple workers can say or do, suggesting a union push would be seen as most unwelcome.

  • At the same time, the company may worry that any heavy handed anti-union tactics could hurt the company’s public image.

The big picture: After avoiding unions for decades, tech workers are increasingly interested in ways that the labor movement might help give them a stronger voice inside their powerful organizations like Amazon and Google, per Fried.

  • The pandemic had a big impact on working people, who are increasingly banding together to put pressure on employers and raise public awareness about health and safety issues they're facing on the job, Axios' Joann Muller notes.
  • Representatives for Apple and Workers United did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.
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