If the organizers of Fruit Stand Workers United manage to gather enough votes to form a union, Grand Central would become the first Apple retail store to do so. That would add the Cupertino, California, company to a growing list of giants, including Amazon, Starbucks and Activision-Blizzard, facing a wave of union efforts in a labor landscape that has fundamentally transformed in the wake of the global pandemic. At least three other Apple retail sites are in the process of forming a union, according to employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity to keep their jobs.
“Grand Central is an exceptional store with unique business conditions that make union essential to ensuring our team has the best possible standards of living in times that have proven extraordinary with the ongoing and once-in-a-generation COVID-19 pandemic. Consumer price inflation,” the site says.
Apple declined to say whether it would support or fight the union’s efforts, but said in a statement: “We are fortunate to have incredible members of the retail team and we deeply appreciate everything they do for Apple. We are pleased to provide very strong compensation and benefits to full-time and part-time employees, Including healthcare, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, stock annuities and many other benefits.”
Some Apple Store employees in the United States are forming unions, which is part of the growing workers’ reaction
Apple has more than 500 retail locations around the world and more than 270 locations in the United States, according to its website. It employs more than 65,000 retail workers. Sales through Apple’s retail stores and website accounted for 36 percent of the company’s $366 billion in total revenue in the fiscal year ending in October, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
Apple has seen impressive revenue growth in recent years, bringing in $378 billion in the last calendar year, compared to $240 billion in 2017. Its strong cash position has allowed the company to spend tens of billions annually on share buybacks and dividends to investors, driving up its share price. .
Apple retail employees interviewed by The Post said that despite the company’s success, their salaries have not kept pace with inflation, and some complain about difficult working conditions, including an inability to hold managers accountable for allegedly unfair or abusive practices. Apple retail employees can earn anywhere from $17 to more than $30 an hour, depending on their market and location, and receive between $1,000 and about $2,000 in inventory, they said. Employees say Apple’s hourly rates are typically in line with other retail jobs in the regions they work in. But Apple, which is worth $2.7 trillion, is no ordinary company. An Apple spokeswoman said the minimum watch price in Apple retail stores is $20.
Apple retail employees say they’ve been instrumental in the company’s success, helping drive sales using their knowledge and passion for products. Even as they stayed home during the pandemic, retail workers continued to contribute, seamlessly taking on new duties like providing tech support to customers from home, and say they haven’t been compensated for the extra time and stress of a quick adjustment. Despite the increase early in the year in the company’s retail locations, and new benefits including more vacation time and family leave, some Apple employees still feel the pinch.
Apple said it is “strongly committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive work environment. We take all concerns seriously and thoroughly investigate each time concerns are raised, and out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters.”
Amazon workers vote to join a union in New York in a historic move
The news comes on the heels of a surprise victory for Amazon warehouse workers on Staten Island – just across the bay from Apple’s grand central station site – in which a majority voted to join a union despite the e-commerce giant’s fierce efforts to convince them otherwise. Starbucks employees at 16 locations, including one in Midtown Manhattan, have successfully joined unions. More than 100 stores have announced efforts to follow. Employees at REI’s SoHo location in Manhattan voted 88-14 in March to form a union, the first of REI’s 170 stores to do so. Quality assurance workers at Raven Software from Activision Blizzard are in the process of forming a syndicate, part of a growing trend in video games.
On December 24, Apple retail employees organized a strike and launched a website, Apple Together, to help retail employees.
Employees at Apple stores mostly work in secret, hoping to informally gauge interest before making a public push to collect official signatures. Workers believe that the company will find reason to fire them if management learns of their unionization efforts.
The Fruit Stand Workers United website says employees are communicating via an encrypted message service, albeit anonymously to protect them from potential punishment.
Employees say union organizers at Apple’s retail locations have allies in the company’s offices. Apple’s high-tech workers have also been pushing for better working conditions.
Starbucks workers vote to unionize 6 more stores, bringing the total to 16
Last year, software engineers and other “corporate” workers formed #Appletoo, a movement aimed at improving working conditions at the company, particularly for underrepresented groups, including workers with disabilities.
Apple fired Janneke Parrish, who helped organize #AppleToo. Parish said she is under investigation for leaking information from a comprehensive corporate meeting, a charge she denies.
Cher Scarlett, a software engineer who encouraged employees to share their paychecks in a survey to expose potential pay disparities hurting unrepresented groups, claimed she was fired in retaliation for her efforts.