Apple Is Withholding New Benefits From Its Only Unionized Store

Apple is planning to withhold its new benefits from its only unionized store in Maryland, new reporting finds, just as another location is set to vote on unionizing.

According to Bloomberg, the company is planning to roll out new benefits, including more funding for tuition assistance, new health care benefits in certain states and a membership to online course platform Coursera. The benefits are intended to be a response to economic and pandemic-related pressures facing workers.

While it appears that non-unionized stores will be able to access the benefits, workers at the unionized store in Baltimore-area Towson, Maryland, were informed that they will not receive them, Bloomberg reported.

Workers voted to unionize in June, becoming the first Apple retail store to ever unionize. They did so despite a fierce anti-union campaign from the company, in which the company sent managers to hold anti-union meetings with workers, and told them that benefits, like one employee’s immigration assistance, could be taken away if the store unionized.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers’ Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (IAM CORE), which represents the workers, expressed their frustration with the company in a statement on Wednesday.

“Despite the news from Apple today, our goal is still the same. We are urging Apple to negotiate in good faith so we can reach an agreement over the next few weeks,” the union said. “The IAM CORE negotiating committee is dedicated to securing a deal that gives our IAM CORE members the proper respect and dignity at work and sets the standard in the tech industry.”

Withholding benefits from unionized employees is a common tactic of anti-union employers. Earlier this year, Starbucks announced that it would be raising its wages to a minimum of $15 an hour, or giving a 3 percent raise, whichever is higher — but only for nonunionized stores. The company has since announced similar new benefits that union members will not be able to access.

Both Apple and Starbucks say they are withholding the additional benefits because labor laws forbid companies from making unilateral changes to things like wages or benefits during a union campaign.

But the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has previously determined that withholding benefits in a way that seems to be purposefully aimed at discouraging unionizing is actually a violation of federal labor laws. In August, the NLRB found that Starbucks’s move to withhold wage raises was illegal, ruling that the company should provide back payment and that the raise should be applied to unionized workers.

Apple’s move comes as another store is slated to vote on unionizing this week. A location in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, will have a union election on Thursday and Friday in which it will decide whether or not to join the Communications Workers of America. The workers are confident that the vote will be successful, saying that about 70 percent of eligible employees signed up for union cards when they filed for a union election.