Apple Retail Workers Fight for a Union — Demands, Explained

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Apr. 18 2022, Published 11:40 a.m. ET

Among many other corporations, Starbucks has been in the news over the last few months as its coffee shop workers continue to seek unionization at a rapid pace (more than 150 had petitioned by March). Now, retail workers for tech giant Apple are following suit. Apple workers at the Grand Central Terminal location in Manhattan are signing on to build a union, which would be a first for Apple.

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Fruit Stand Workers United, as the Apple retail workers call themselves, are hoping to make certain demands of their employer. From increased pay to equitable working conditions, an Apple union has the potential to change the game for the company’s future.

Manhattan Apple workers sign on to form union.

Apple’s Fruit Stand Workers United voted on Feb. 21 to affiliate with the Workers United national labor union. This union has been instrumental in helping employees in the retail and storefront sector unionize, including those working at Starbucks.

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The union organizers need to gather enough signatures from employees to form a union, all while going against Apple. Organizers report that Apple has demonstrated anti-union tactics to try to keep the signature count below the threshold. The Fruit Stand Workers United website says, “This is why Apple is already resisting our organizing efforts; because Apple may be legally required to negotiate with you in the near future.”

Reportedly, a handful of other Apple retail locations are also in the process of forming a unionization.

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What will the Apple union demand?

If the Apple retail worker union for the Manhattan location goes through, the union would have certain demands. Some issues are at the forefront, with retail employees noting that pay hasn't kept up with the rapid pace of hyper-inflation. The union calls it a “once-in-a-generation consumer price inflation,” with the cost of living jumping 7.9 percent in the year ending in March.

While New York City’s rate of inflation of 5.9 percent during this period is actually lower than the national average, it still strains the minimum $20 per hour at Apple retail stores. It’s hard for a company to claim money problems as it boasts a $2.7 trillion enterprise valuation.

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Pay isn't the only qualm, according to Apple employees. The union wants to mitigate poor working conditions, namely unfair or downright abusive behavior from workplace managers.

Working conditions are a big enough issue for Apple employees that corporate workers have already formed a group called #Appletoo, a take on the Me Too movement that highlights struggles of female, disabled, and otherwise underrepresented employees.

Will the Apple union come to fruition?

The Fruit Stand Workers Union requires enough signatures to pass. If the union passes, certain classes of workers in the Manhattan store will be required to pay union dues, regardless of whether they voted in favor of the union. The main hurdle is convincing enough employees that the benefits received through Workers United—including mortgage assistance and potential pay negotiations—are worth the pay cut in the meantime.

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