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OPERATING UPDATE

Apple store employees in Maryland have formed the company’s first US union

Customers walk past an Apple logo inside of an Apple store
Reuters/Lucas Jackson
Apple has 270 stores in the US.
  • Lila MacLellan
By Lila MacLellan

Quartz at Work senior reporter

Published

Employees at an Apple Store in Maryland have voted to unionize, organizers announced on June 18.

Voting began earlier this week at the Apple store in Towson Town Center, in Towson, Maryland, where workers have been campaigning for several months. Of the nearly 100 employees at the store, 65 voted in favor of unionizing, and some 33 employees voted against it, the New York Times reports. Now the store workers will join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

“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,” IAM international president Robert Martinez Jr. said in a statement. “This victory shows the growing demand for unions at Apple stores and different industries across our nation.”

Indeed, employees at several other Apple stores may soon follow suit. In February, the Washington Post reported that union organizing had taken hold at 14 Apple Store locations across the US. Right now, the only other store that appears close to unionizing is in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, where workers are sharing a petition about a union vote. Employees in Atlanta reached the same stage in May, but withdrew their petition.

The newly formed union in Maryland, called AppleCORE, for Apple Coalition of Organized Retail Employee, is the latest retail worker union among a growing number across the country. Starbucks employees have already voted to unionize at more than 150 stores; worker organizers at a Trader Joe’s location in Hadley, Massachusetts filed for a union election last week, with an eye to becoming the first unionized store in that nationwide chain.

Last week also saw workers at an Apple store in Glasgow, Scotland became the first to vote in favor of joining a major trade union in the UK. Apple, has more than 500 Apple Store outposts around the world, including more than 270 in the US.

What do Apple’s unionized store employees want?

The issues driving Apple retail workers to unionize go beyond pay and benefits: Workers are also looking for more of a voice in company operations, as Quartz reported. In an open letter to Apple chief Tim Cook last month, the employees behind the AppleCORE campaign said they were inspired by their love of their jobs, “not to go against or create conflict with our management.” Their goal, they said, “was about gaining access to rights we currently do not have.”

But pay has also been a concern among the hourly workers, especially given increased inflation. Last month Apple raised its minimum starting wage from $20 to $22 per hour, though some workers will start at even higher rate, depending on the market. Retail employees also receive $1,000 to $2,000 in stock, and are eligible for benefits. However, some employees say that wages have not increased enough.

Apple investors, by contrast, have benefitted recently from stock buybacks and dividend payouts. Apple made $366 billion in revenue in 2021, 36% of which was earned through Apple store sales, the Post reports.

Should other stores attempt to unionize, they could face pushback from the tech giant. The Communications Workers of America, which is backing employees at New York’s Grand Central station, has filed complaints against Apple with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the company of using union-busting tactics to prevent store employees from organizing. Employees at the Towson store also told the New York Times that their managers told staff that unions once banned Black workers and invited employees into private conversations where they warned workers about the costs of union dues.

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