Workers at an Apple Inc. store in Atlanta were the first in the United States to apply for a union election on Wednesday, sparking a battle between organized labor and a Silicon Valley titan.
The proposed union includes 107 workers at an Apple store in Cumberland Mall in northwest Atlanta.
The group submitted a petition with the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday after collecting signed support cards from 70 percent of eligible employees, said Derrick Bowles, a Cumberland Apple store worker and organizing committee member.
A successful campaign could establish a foothold for organized work in Big Tech as a nationwide shortage of workers forces employers to reevaluate pay and working conditions.
The effort is supported by Communications Workers of America as part of a broader campaign to organize technology employees.
The Atlanta group would be called Apple Workers Union, according to a copy of the petition and domestic campaign literature reviewed by Bloomberg Law.
The union has proposed a local election for May 5-7.
“Right now, I think, is the right time because we just see the momentum swinging the way workers work,” Bowles said.
“As we sat down and reassessed, what we realized is that we love being at Apple and leaving Apple is not something any of us want to do. But improving it is something we wanted to do ”.
Organizers say the pay at the store is less than the living wage for Atlanta.
The starting wage is about $ 20 an hour, below the living wage of $ 31 an hour for a single parent with one child, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The union wants to raise the base wage to $ 28 an hour, the minimum necessary for a single employee to afford a one-bedroom apartment without being burdened with rent.
It also calls for greater increases to offset inflation and greater profit sharing to match corporate employees.
An Apple spokesperson did not specifically comment on the union statement, but said the company is “happy to offer very high compensation and benefits for full-time and part-time employees, including health care, tuition reimbursement. , new parental leave, paid family leave, annual scholarships and many other benefits ”.
Apple Workers Union faces a tough battle against a tech giant known for uniformity in its stores, the cornerstone of its strategy for delivering a stylish customer experience.
Since opening its first physical location in 2001, the company has expanded to more than 500 stores worldwide, including nearly 300 in the United States.
Look at Amazon, Starbucks
The filing comes as another Apple store in New York tries to organize itself under Workers United, the syndicate behind the recent spate of wins at Starbucks Corp. The stores.
Union leaders are hoping that a victory in Atlanta will trigger a similar cascade of victories as the first Starbucks syndicated in Buffalo, New York last December, Bowles said.
Although the share of private sector workers in trade unions remains near historic lows, union leaders are bullish after the Starbucks victory and the unexpected coup at an Amazon.com Inc. warehouse in Staten Island, New York.
Discussions about forming a union at the Atlanta store began after several workers, including Bowles, began following the fight for the Amazon union in Bessemer, Ala.
Although the Amazon workers were defeated in the first election, this inspired Apple workers to step forward as the first store.
“Someone has to be the first to do something,” Bowles said.
“Being first doesn’t matter to us, doing it is what matters to us. And if we have to be first, we will be first “.
Microsoft Corp., Apple’s main competitor, remains non-union, as do most of the major technology companies.
But recently there have been spurts of unrest, with workers at Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, launching a worker advocacy group last year and Activision Blizzard Inc. employees trying to form a union before. that the company was acquired by Microsoft.
The Apple Store Union petition is expected to be examined by the NLRB, which will then hold hearings on the size of the bargaining unit and other key issues.
Apple hasn’t said whether it would consider the unusual step of voluntarily recognizing workers.