Apple’s “genius bar” near Baltimore seeks to form a union

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A group of Apple employees in Maryland on Tuesday launched a union campaign, becoming the third store to tour the world’s most valuable company.

Organizers at the Towson Mall store near Baltimore have been mobilizing support for nearly a year in coordination with the International Association of Machinists and Space Workers, two employees and a union organizer said. They say they have signatures from more than 65 percent of employees who are likely eligible, giving them an “overwhelming majority” that is hard for the company to beat.

An Apple spokesperson on Tuesday reiterated the company’s response to a previous petition in Atlanta, saying, “We are fortunate to have such amazing retail team members and we deeply appreciate everything they do for Apple. We are pleased to provide very strong compensation and benefits to full- and part-time employees, including health care.” Tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, annual stock grants and many other benefits.”

The Inform the organizers Apple CEO Tim Cook announced his intention to organize as the Regulatory Retail Employee Alliance — AppleCore for short — in a letter dated Tuesday, a copy of which was reviewed by The Post. The union plans to submit working papers to the National Labor Relations Board in the coming days, according to David DeMaria, an organizer at IAM.

Union Drive is the latest sign of Activate the labor movement: The disruption associated with the pandemic has prompted many Americans to rethink their jobs and priorities, while a shortage of skilled labor has given workers new leverage. Those tailwinds helped the guilds make headway in Traditionally non-union workplaces, including Starbucks, Amazon and Apple. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Earlier this year, The Post reported that several US Apple stores were trying to regulate. The Post reported that workers at the main Grand Central Terminal store in New York City were collecting autographs, while a store near Atlanta became the first to file papers with the NLRB.

In recent interviews with The Post, nine Towson Mall employees said they hope the regulation will give them a seat at the table around things like coronavirus safety, hours and pay. They complained that the company’s scheduling system – which is run by the company’s office in Austin – gives too little control to certain stores, making it difficult for people to balance work and other life tasks.

Some said they want the benefits To be commensurate with the tenure. They also argue The technical skills and product experience gained on the job set them apart from those in other retail jobs. Others have complained that Apple has been too slow to raise its salaries at a time when profits are soaring. Last week, the company posted record revenue of $97.3 billion in its fiscal second quarter, up 9 percent from the same period last year and nearly double what it was five years ago. Its market capitalization is over $2.5 trillion.

Ewan Barancay, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, said the recent wave of unions has been driven by issues that go beyond simple disputes over pay and benefits.

“The most important issue seems to be that the staff lacks a voice,” he said. He said that decisions that can have a significant impact on the lives of thousands of employees are sometimes made by people with whom they do not interact much, and employees are often “victims of random and arbitrary choices”, without resorting to decisions made from remote corporate offices.

“The pandemic has made people who work on the front lines kind of realize what they deserve,” said Kevin Gallagher, an employee of seven years at the Towson Store. “More money is great, but it’s really about agency.”

“Creative” Gallagher, who says he spends much of his workday teaching people how to use advanced features on their iPhones, MacBooks, iPads and Apple Watch, says there were concerns about a potential union even before the pandemic. He said the topic appeared on a group chat he started on encrypted messaging app Signal before the store, like many retailers, temporarily closed as a precaution against the coronavirus in March 2020.

More than a year later, Billy Garboy, a longtime Apple employee, called Gallagher, the two men said. Garboe, a full-time operations leader who has a side job as a yoga teacher, has been in touch with people who previously organized yoga teachers in New York. Through a yoga connection, Garboe met David DeMaria, the organizer of the Machinists’ Guild.

Robert Martinez Jr., president of IAM, said in an interview that the mechanic union, while most commonly associated with heavy industry, has been branching out into a range of industries, including Apple Stores. “When these non-traditional sectors approach us, we will work with them,” he said.

Apple workers At a Cumberland Mall store in Atlanta, she filed for a union election on April 20, becoming the first to do so, with more than 70 percent support, according to the Communications Workers of America, which represents them.

Apple Store workers are located at the intersection of retail and high-tech. They say they handle many of the usual retail issues, but many are also developing technical expertise – those with a desirable “genius” status, for exampleAnd Qualified to repair customers’ broken devices.

Lindsey King, another union supporter of the Towson store, has been retailing there for over 11 years. She said it was exhilarating at first. New product launches attracted great interest and long lines. “It was like this elite place that everyone wanted to be accepted into.” But in recent years, the treatment of employees has declined. “It’s starting to feel like every other retail job,” she said.

The new, less flexible scheduling system made it difficult for her to juggle her duties as a mother of three, forcing her to take time off and sick days for routine childcare needs. She also said the company didn’t adjust its pay to reflect the market: She said new and inexperienced employees earn about what they are now.

Garboe said the pandemic made him realize he was performing many of the duties of a manager without being paid accordingly. He also felt that he had little control over his schedule. “I always had a hunch that I was giving away more value than I was getting, and that’s what covid helped me offload; how much anxiety I had about it,” he said.

Garboe and others say they want work time that counts for something, especially given Apple’s rapid growth. “It was our largest quarter ever, and how much profit did we see in our individual stores as the lowest score for Apple employees?” “The Creative Professional,” said Chaya Barrett, who holds the title of “Creative Professional.”

Others involved in the union efforts say the pandemic has been a source of stress because iPhones and Macs became a lifeline of sorts when companies suddenly switched to remote work.

“You have people who are frustrated because something is not working that is so vital to them…or that they need it to do their job. Some people look at us as punching bags,” said Eric Brown, titled “The Genius.” It doesn’t work, it’s made by Apple, and you work for Apple, it’s your fault.”

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