TOWSON, Md. (AP) — Workers at Apple stores in a Baltimore suburb voted to unionize by a nearly 2-to-1 margin on Saturday, a union said, joining a growing push in U.S. sectors of the retail, services and technology to organize for greater workplace protections.
Apple retail workers in Towson, Md., voted 65 to 33 to seek membership in the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, according to the union’s announcement. The vote could not be confirmed immediately with the National Labor Relations Council, which should certify the result. A spokesperson for the NLRB referred initial questions about the vote to the council’s regional office, which was closed late Saturday.
Apple declined to comment on Saturday’s development, company spokesman Josh Lipton told The Associated Press by phone.
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Unionization in various fields has recently gained momentum after decades of declining union membership in the United States. Organizers have worked to establish unions at companies including Amazon, Starbucks, Google’s parent company Alphabet and outdoor retailer REI.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and Apple employees who wanted to join said they sent Apple CEO Tim Cook a notice last month saying they were seeking to form a union. The statement said their primary motivation was to pursue “rights that we don’t currently have.” He added that workers have recently organized in the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, or CORE.
“I applaud the courage shown by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson to achieve this historic victory,” IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. said in the statement. “They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the country who had their eyes on this election.”
Martinez called on Apple to respect the election results and let unionized employees fast-track efforts to secure a contract at the Towson site.
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It was still unclear what steps would follow the vote in Towson. Labor experts say it is common for employers to drag out the bargaining process in a bid to slow down union campaigns.
The IAM bills itself as one of the largest and most diverse industrial unions in North America, representing approximately 600,000 active and retired members in the aerospace, defense, airline, railroad railway, public transport, health, automobile and others.
The unionization of Apple stores comes against a backdrop of other union organizing nationwide – some of which have been pushed back.
Amazon workers at a New York warehouse voted to unionize in April, the first successful U.S. organizing effort in the retail giant’s history. However, workers at another Amazon warehouse in Staten Island overwhelmingly rejected a union offer last month. Meanwhile, Starbucks workers in dozens of US stores have voted to unionize in recent months, after two of the coffee chain’s stores in Buffalo, New York, voted to unionize at the end of the last year.
Many organizing efforts have been led by young workers in their twenties and even teenagers. A group of Google engineers and other workers last year formed the Alphabet Workers Union, which represents about 800 Google employees and is led by five people under the age of 35.