Second Apple store workers vote to join union

CNN business

Apple workers in Oklahoma City have voted to form their second-ever union at one of the company’s U.S. stores, the latest sign that organizing efforts are gaining momentum inside and outside the tech and retail industries.

In a preliminary count by the National Labor Relations Board on Friday afternoon, 56 workers, or 64 percent of those voting at the Penn Square Mall Apple store, voted to represent the Communications Workers of America, while 32 voted against. The participation was great, 88 of the 95 possible employees took part in the vote.

The union victory comes four months after workers at an Apple store in Towson, Maryland, made history by voting to unionize Apple’s first U.S. location. In late June, the NLRB officially certified the union’s election victory.

Workers at both locations said they are seeking unionization to decide how their stores operate. Some said they were inspired by union pushes at Amazon and Starbucks this year.

Apple did not directly respond to the vote results when reached for comment on Friday.

“We believe that our open, direct and collaborative relationship with our valued teams is the best way to provide a great experience for our customers and our teams,” the company’s statement said. “We pride ourselves on providing strong compensation and exceptional benefits to our team members. Since 2018, we have increased our origination rates by 45% in the US and made many significant improvements to our industry leading advantages.”

The turnout was about as expected by the workers leading the organizing effort, according to Leigha Briscoe, a member of the store’s organizing committee.

“We felt like we had the support of the majority, and as long as one person voted, we were going to win,” Briscoe told CNN Business late Friday after the vote was counted.

Briscoe has been an employee of the store for six years. He said workers who wanted to form a union approached the CWA instead of the CWA trying to organize the shop on its own.

Briscoe, 28, is typical of many younger workers leading successful union organizing across the country in the wake of the pandemic. Many of the successful efforts, such as one at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, and more than 200 Starbucks stores nationwide, have been led by employees in their twenties and early thirties.

There were 826 union elections between January and July of this year, a 45 percent increase over the number held during the same period in 2021, according to a CNN analysis of NLRB data. And the unions’ 70% success rate in those votes is far better than their 42% success rate in the first seven months of 2021.

But only 41,000 potential union members were eligible to vote in the 2022 election. Even if unions won all of those votes—the NLRB data doesn’t break down how many workers worked at each voting company—it would be a tiny fraction of the more than 100 million workers at U.S. companies. a union, according to Labor Department statistics.

The retail sector has a much lower rate of unionization than other industries. Labor Department data show that only 4.4 percent of the state’s retail workers are union members, compared to 6.1 percent of corporate workers.

Including government employees, only 10.3% of the nation’s workforce are union members, roughly half of union membership in 1983, the first year the Labor Department tracked, when union membership was 20.1% of the nation’s workforce.

Oklahoma is not particularly fertile ground for union efforts. Labor Department figures show only 5.6% of workers are members of unions, barely half the national rate of 10.3%.