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Apple feeling heat from workers as second store files union election petition

Multiple U.S. Apple stores push to unionize
Multiple U.S. Apple stores push to unionize 03:09

Add Apple to the list of major U.S. companies, including Amazon and Starbucks, facing an incipient push by workers to form a union.

Labor organizers who have been mobilizing workers at an Apple store in the Towson Mall near Baltimore, Maryland on Wednesday officially filed for a request to hold a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). More than one hundred store employees are expected to be eligible to vote in the election.

Apple employees are being assisted by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

"IAM is proud to support the employees at the Apple store in Towson on their union effort," says IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. "We represent customer service employees in multiple industries and are excited about the new wave of organizing efforts in the tech and service industries. These workers, like all workers, have the federal right to union representation and we are happy to see CORE file for election."

The group on Tuesday announced their wish to unionize in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Workers at one other of the $2.6 trillion company's stores have also filed a petition with the NLRB requesting a union vote.  

"To be clear, the decision to form a union is about us as workers gaining access to rights that we do not currently have," the organizers, who call themselves the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, or CORE, wrote in the letter. 

They also asked the tech giant "to pledge not to use your resources to engage in an anti-union campaign to dissuade us. We ask that you voluntarily recognize our union so we can begin working together as equals in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration."

Apple did not reply to a request for comment. 

Unions vs. Amazon: A David and Goliath story 05:00

Workers at the Maryland store, including tech specialists known as "geniuses," are being assisted in the union drive by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. IAM special representative David DiMaria, the lead organizer of the effort, said Apple has not yet responded to its letter. 

"We asked Apple to voluntarily recognize the union, and while we wait for them to respond we will move forward with the paperwork and keep the process going," DiMaria told CBS MoneyWatch, adding that he's "very optimistic" that the labor push at the store will succeed.

"In most cases, when a majority of workers say they want a union, really the only thing that stops them is how much resources their employer puts toward stopping them," he said. 

Apple has not yet responded to the group's letter or indicated if it plans to fight the effort.

The Apple workers are seeking the right to negotiate for better pay and benefits as well as improved COVID-19 safety protocols. More generally, they want a bigger say in company policies.

"They want rights so we are not just fixing the problem today, but so that we can negotiate through problems five to 10 years from now," DiMaria said. "It's about the relationship that needs to change, not the symptoms."

The union drive comes after Apple workers at its Cumberland Mall location in Atlanta in April filed paperwork to hold a union election. Voting is scheduled to begin June 2. Workers at the iPhone maker's retail store in New York's Grand Central Terminal have taken the first steps to form a union in April.

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