Apple Workers at Maryland Store Become Company’s First to Join a Union

Image Credit: iStock, PhillDanze

Sign up for smart news, insights, and analysis on the biggest financial stories of the day.

If you listen closely this morning, you can hear the sound of Apple executives ordering an extra shot of espresso in their morning Starbucks.

Apple employees at a Baltimore-area store voted to unionize Saturday, marking the first of the company’s 270 US stores to join a growing labor organizing trend.

Statistical Advantage

The wave of retail unionizations in the US this year is bigger than just the headline-grabbing drives at Starbucks and Amazon. The number of union representation petitions in the first half of fiscal 2022, from October to the end of March, rose 57%, according to the National Labor Relations Board. And a close look at labor market statistics tells the story of workers’ sudden bargaining power.

Employers advertised 11.4 million jobs in April, almost two jobs for every unemployed person. Companies have also basically stopped firing people — a record low 1.25 million people lost their job in April. Meanwhile, 4.4 million people quit their jobs in April, just short of the record 4.5 million who quit in March. Even at Apple, with its $2.1 trillion market cap, workers have been emboldened:

  • Apple reported a record $97 billion in revenue in its second fiscal quarter, a 9% increase from last year. Last month, the company boosted retail workers’ starting salary to $22 an hour, from $20, and warned employees that unionization could hurt business.
  • But, for the workers at Apple’s Towson, Maryland store who voted 65-33 to unionize, compensation is a secondary concern. They want more power over hours worked, scheduling, and their store’s safety protocols. “Compensation is important, considering the cost of living in general and inflation, but the bigger thing is having a say,” Christie Pridgen, one of the organizers, told CNN.

The Big Apple Drive: Apple employees are already organizing at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal store and a store in Louisville, Kentucky, where the company will hope it doesn’t get cooked like a Southern cobbler. That recipe could also come into play if workers in Atlanta — who withdrew a vote bid last month, citing intimidation by Apple — opt to continue their union drive.