Apple and Amazon in the face of encouraging labor movement after major achievements

Apple and Amazon in the face of encouraging labor movement after major achievements

Apple has long considered its Oklahoma City employees invulnerable from unions, voting overwhelmingly to join the CWA.

The labor movement is gaining momentum at major tech companies, with one Apple Inc store voting. Friday’s union rally and unrest spread across Amazon.com Inc.’s distribution sites. in Southern California. Organizers say it’s only the beginning.

Apple has long considered its Oklahoma City employees overwhelmingly to vote invulnerable from unions, becoming the second store to join a union among the company’s nearly 270 US outlets. Meanwhile, Amazon workers quit their jobs Friday in San Bernardino, California — a type of workplace mobilization unheard of at e-retailers, but which has become increasingly common during the pandemic.

Amazon faces an important test Tuesday when the US National Labor Relations Board is scheduled to tally votes in the election at a warehouse near Albany, New York.

Labor activists are passing on the struggle to other tech giants as well. A CWA affiliate organization at Google filed the latest complaints in the NLRB chain this month accusing the Alphabet Inc unit. violating the rights of its subcontracted employees. But the unions at Apple Stores – with their illustrious design and iconic locations – could become one of the most iconic symbols of business achievement in the tech world.

“For decades, the modern retail industry was completely immune to even the most principled impulses of unions,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Now that is changing.”

Apple, the world’s most valuable company, is increasing wages and adding new benefits in the face of union efforts. In May, Apple raised the national minimum retail wage to $22 an hour. Just last week, the company announced a raft of new benefits, but it told its union employees that they would not receive the benefits without negotiating first.

The CWA, which represents workers in industries ranging from media and technology to airlines and healthcare, claimed that Apple also held a large number of anti-union meetings in the run-up to the election. The CWA said in a complaint with the NLRB that management threatened employees, and said regulation would be futile.

But when the NLRB counted the votes Friday night, it wasn’t close: Fifty-six workers backed the union, with 32 votes against. CWA is now preparing to negotiate on behalf of the employees, whose store is located in the upscale Penn Square Mall in Oklahoma City. It was the first Apple store to join a union in Towson, Maryland, last June, and those workers helped advise the Oklahoma City site on how to handle the election.

In response to Friday’s vote, Apple said it believes an “open, direct and collaborative relationship” with employees is the best way to serve customers and workers themselves.

“We are proud to offer our team members strong compensation and exceptional benefits,” said the Cupertino, California company. “Since 2018, we have increased our starting rates in the United States by 45% and made several significant improvements to our industry-leading benefits, including new educational and family support programs.”

The company has made clear its opposition to unions. Apple warned against putting “another organization in the middle of our relationship” in its spring video message to employees. In that letter, Senior Vice President Deirdre O’Brien described the union as “an organization that does not have a deep understanding of Apple or our business and, most importantly, does not believe it shares our commitment to you.”

The CWA describes Apple’s response as intimidating, and compares it to Starbucks Corp.’s moves. And Amazon to undo the unions.

“Workers see these tactics for what they are – desperate attempts to prevent them from having a real say in their working conditions,” Sarah Stevens, CWA Treasurer, said in a statement. “Money is no match for workers who are willing to claim their power.”

She said Apple’s retail workers will continue to organize across the country, “especially after this great victory.” It’s not clear which Apple Store might be next to try to hold the election. A vote at a convenience store in Atlanta was called off, with the union claiming that Apple pressure prevented a fair election. Locations in New York City may also be major battlegrounds.

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At Amazon, management competes with union campaigns across the country. In recent days, workers at a warehouse in Moreno Valley, California — about 20 miles from the San Bernardino site — have filed papers to join the fledgling Amazon workers union.

Workers at the Staten Island warehouse in New York voted in April to join the union, but the company is seeking to overturn the findings. The union lost a subsequent election at a smaller facility nearby.

Dozens of workers at the San Bernardino facility — an air hub — took part in the one-day strike Friday, demanding better working conditions and a $5 an hour raise. They carried banners, chanted “living wages now” and walked past the facility, which employs more than 1,500 people. Several workers on site load and unload cargo planes.

Workers said they gave Amazon an October 10 deadline to increase initial wages to about $22 an hour. Daniel Rivera, 28, who took part in the strike, said he earned $1 per hour increment in September, which brought his hourly earnings to $18.50.

“Even with a dollar increase, it’s not a livable wage for us,” he said. Amazon workers at facilities near Atlanta and Chicago staged similar protests earlier in the week to demand better wages.

Amazon said wages at its US facilities range from $16 to $26 an hour depending on location and location. The company said in a statement that employee benefits include medical coverage and 401(k) retirement plans.

“While we’re always listening and working to find ways to improve the experience, we’re proud to offer compensation packages that not only include great pay, but also provide comprehensive benefits for regular, full-time employees,” spokeswoman Mary-Kate Paradise said Friday.

Tech companies aren’t the only ones facing a bolder labor movement. At Starbucks, union activists turned an initial victory in Buffalo, New York, into hundreds of successful votes across the country — illustrating how motivating winning can be. The labor movement also had victories at Trader Joe’s and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. Other chains were previously apparently banned.

These gains are historic events for the long-declining American labor movement, even if securing actual collective bargaining agreements could take months or years to happen.

Patrick Hart, Apple campaign lead in Oklahoma City, said he is now eager to advise the company’s other stores on how to organize.

“I want this to become a labor movement,” he said. “We will be that motivator for people.”

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