Apple Store workers in Oklahoma vote to unionise second US store

Some current and former workers last year began criticising the company's working conditions online, using the hashtag #AppleToo

The Apple Store at the Towson Town Center mall in Maryland, which in June became the first of the company's retail locations in the US where workers voted to unionise. AFP
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Apple retail workers in Oklahoma voted to unionise, the US National Labour Relations Board said on Friday.

Employees at the Apple Penn Square store in Oklahoma City voted 56 to 32 in support of joining the Communications Workers of America Union, securing the needed majority, according to a tally by the NLRB.

The move to organise spread to new industries during the pandemic, sparked by concerns about workplace safety. Momentum has continued at companies including, Starbucks and others.

The workers, who call themselves the Penn Square Labour Alliance, sought to join the CWA to address concerns including fair compensation, career development and Covid-19 health and safety concerns.

"The thing that really did it for us was seeing our peers at other Apple stores, our peers with Starbucks and other companies start to demand better for themselves," said Kevin Herrera, a part-time Apple specialist and one of the lead organisers at the Oklahoma City location.

The CWA filed in early October an unfair labour practice charge alleging that Apple managers at the Oklahoma location informed workers that support for the union was futile, threatened to withhold benefits from workers supporting the union, engaged in unlawful surveillance and interrogated workers, according to a press release from the CWA.

Apple declined to comment on the allegations.

"We believe the open, direct and collaborative relationship we have with our valued team members is the best way to provide an excellent experience for our customers, and for our teams," Apple said in a statement.

"We’re proud to provide our team members with strong compensation and exceptional benefits. Since 2018, we’ve increased our starting rates in the US by 45 per cent and we’ve made many significant enhancements to our industry-leading benefits, including new educational and family support programs," the company added.

Apple workers near Baltimore, Maryland, voted in June to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The CWA in May withdrew an election petition on behalf of Apple workers in Atlanta, Georgia, claiming that Apple had repeatedly violated federal labor law and the rising number of Covid infections among store employees made a fair election impossible, according to the CWA.

A regional NLRB office accused Apple on September 30 of illegally attempting to stymie a union campaign at a New York City retail store by interrogating workers and barring them from leaving pro-union flyers in a break room.

Some current and former Apple workers last year began criticising the company's working conditions online, using the hashtag #AppleToo.

Apple has 272 stores in the US, according to the company's website.

Updated: October 15, 2022, 2:15 PM