Workers at the Penn Square Apple Store in Oklahoma City have filed with the National Labor Relations Board to hold a union election, becoming the third US location to have done so. According to a press release, over 70 percent of the store’s salespeople, genius admins, technicians, creatives, and operations specialists, have signed cards to say they’re interested in being represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA).
The NLRB’s bar for a sufficient showing of interest for an election is 30 percent of workers signing union cards.
The filing was reported previously by Bloomberg, and the outlet writes that Michael Forsythe, an employee and organizer at the Oklahoma City store, said workers are looking for “more transparency and input on issues like safety, scheduling and pay.”
There has been one successful union drive at Apple’s US retail stores — in June, workers at Apple’s Towson Town Center store in Maryland voted to unionize. Campaigns at other stores, such as one in New York City (which also hopes to organize with the CWA), and another in Louisville, Kentucky haven’t gotten to the point of holding an election. There was an election scheduled in Atlanta, but the CWA called it off, saying it would be impossible to hold a fair election thanks to Apple’s “repeated violations of the National Labor Relations Act.”
Earlier this year, Apple’s vice president of people and retail Deirdre O’Brien tried to convince employees not to unionize, saying that doing so would “put another organization in the middle of our relationship,” one that “does not have a deep understanding of Apple or our business.” (Organizers in Maryland were largely employees of the Apple Store, though the union did work with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.) The company has also been accused of union busting via captive audience meetings, and by not allowing employees to post union flyers.
Apple also addressed a major complaint from some workers: money. In May, the company bumped up the starting hourly wages at its retail stores, from $20 to $22.
Given Apple’s apparent efforts against unionization, and the lack of elections or other public union activities, it was easy to assume that the campaign to unionize the company’s retail locations had deflated. However, experts have told The Verge that fast-moving campaigns, like the one to organize Starbucks, aren’t the norm and that it can take years or organize a location. In other words, it wasn't out of the ordinary that there wasn’t news coming out of New York or Atlanta every day. Organizers at Towson Town Center also mentioned that they’ve been hearing from people at other stores, who were quietly trying to organize their own campaigns.
The campaign in Oklahoma City reinforces the idea that union campaigns haven’t gone away at Apple. Now that the petition is filed, the NLRB will have to certify that there’s been a sufficient showing of interest. If it determines there is, Apple and organizers can come to an agreement on how to hold the election (which happened in Atlanta), or the NLRB can hold a hearing and issue a decision on how the election will take place.
Reached for comment, Apple spokesperson Josh Lipton said that the company reiterates its previous statement. Earlier this year, he told The Verge that Apple 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.”