Apple Inc. retail workers at a store in Oklahoma City have voted to unionize, expanding labor’s foothold at the world’s most valuable company and raising the prospect of further gains in other cities.
The US National Labor Relations Board counted ballots Friday night from an election held among employees at the store, located in the city’s upscale Penn Square Mall. The staff voted to join the Communications Workers of America, making theirs the second store to unionize among Apple’s roughly 270 US outlets. The vote was 56 in favor and 32 against.
The CWA’s win follows a June vote by staff at a Maryland store to join another labor group -- the International Association of Machinists -- marking one of several groundbreaking victories this year at previously union-free US companies. …
In response to the Oklahoma City vote, Apple said it believed that an “open, direct and collaborative relationship” with employees was the best way to “provide an excellent experience for our customers and for our teams.”
“We’re proud to provide our team members with strong compensation and exceptional benefits,” the company said. “Since 2018, we’ve increased our starting rates in the US by 45% and we’ve made many significant enhancements to our industry-leading benefits, including new educational and family support programs.”
As with the Machinists’ victory in Towson, Maryland, the Oklahoma vote could quickly embolden Apple workers who have been privately discussing organizing elsewhere. The fact that the effort prevailed in a deep-red state, whose unionization rate is only around half the US average, underscores the campaign’s potential to spread nationwide.
Patrick Hart, a leader in the Oklahoma City campaign, said he’s now eager to advise other Apple stores on how to organize.
“I want this to become a labor movement,” he said. “We’re going to be that catalyst for people.”
With two stores unionizing, Apple will have a tougher time maintaining the status quo, said Epstein Becker & Green attorney Steven Swirsky.
“If I lost one, it could concern me,” Swirsky, who advises companies on how to avoid unionization, said prior to the vote. “If you lose more than one, then it starts to become hard to explain away.”
The Oklahoma City win is a watershed moment for the CWA as it faces off against Apple and competes with the Machinists to organize the company. The group has said that it’s in touch with Apple store workers around the country and has filed unionization petitions at two locations so far: the Oklahoma site and one in Atlanta. In the latter case, the union withdrew its petition for an election the week before a scheduled vote, citing alleged misconduct by Apple.