Apple retail workers apply for unionization vote, face challenges

By Emma Reilly
Opinion Editor

Staff at the Apple Store in the Cumberland Mall in Atlanta became the first of the company’s retail workers in the nation to file for unionization on April 21.

According to NPR, the participating staff — including salespeople, technicians, creatives, and operations specialists — will be represented by the Communications Workers of America labor union.

By unionizing, the Cumberland Mall Apple employees would be able to push Apple to increase transparency and fully consider the experiences of their lower-level employees.

The Cumberland Mall workers remain pragmatic, even while addressing the fact that Apple does not communicate well with the average employee.

According to NPR, the Atlanta employees were inspired to unionize in part due to the positive experiences they have had while working for Apple.

“A number of us have been here for many years, and we don’t think you stick at a place unless you love it,” Apple Genius Worker Derrick Bowles said to NPR.

Nevertheless, the workers recognize that their employer has its shortcomings.

“Apple is a profoundly positive place to work, but we know that the company can better live up to their ideals,” Bowles said.

The Cumberland Mall employees are particularly concerned about the tech giant’s ability to implement policies fairly across the board, especially in light of Apple’s nonuniform enforcement of COVID-19 procedures.

“The implication is that these corporate values don’t always translate to the frontlines,” Zoe Schiffer with The Verge said. “During the pandemic, workers complained that while Apple led the retail sector in implementing COVID-19 safety measures, managers at certain retail stores pressured employees to come to work while they were experiencing symptoms.”

It is understandable that the Cumberland Mall employees want to address these inconsistencies and voice their concerns. The fact that such a need exists demonstrates how impersonal working for a big tech company can feel.

 CWA argues that “big tech companies like Google, Amazon and Apple fail to give employees who don’t work in an office equal standing and respect,” Ayana Archie with NPR said.

As Apple retail workers across the nation follow in the Cumberland Mall employees’ footsteps, it has become clear that many agree with CWA’s point.

The Atlanta workers’ application for a union vote “set off a firestorm of organizing activity at Apple Stores across the country,” Schiffer said.

Though it would benefit the company and its employees, it seems that Apple is reluctant to allow its retail workers to unionize.

According to The Verge, Apple hired Littler Mendelson anti-union lawyers in response to the rise of unionization sentiment amongst its employees. Despite its clear stance on the matter, Apple has yet to release an official statement in response to the Atlanta workers’ application.

The workers’ demonstrated interest in unionizing, understandable concerns related to policy implementation, and genuine interest in improving the company’s operations build up a strong case for unionization — though it remains unclear whether or not their efforts will prove successful.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Featured Photo Caption: Employees at the Apple Store in the Cumberland Mall in Atlanta are the first from the company to apply for unionization.

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