Workers at an Apple store in Atlanta, Georgia, have filed for a union, becoming the first in the nation to do so after reporters found earlier this year that Apple employees in at least seven stores are in the midst of union organizing.
The workers have filed for representation with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) — specifically, the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees, or the CODE-CWA campaign, which is aimed at unionizing tech and video game workers. If they successfully unionize, they will be the first union among the company’s 272 retail stores in the U.S. The union would include roughly 107 workers in the store.
According to Vice, 70 percent of workers at the store, located in the Cumberland Mall, have signed union cards — a far larger proportion of the workers than the 30 percent needed for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold an election. Only a simple majority of votes is needed to win a union election, which is scheduled for the Apple workers in early May.
This marks a major milestone for workers amid a watershed moment in the labor movement. If the workers unionize, they will join workers from other major companies that are household names, including REI, Amazon and Starbucks, who have successfully formed unions just in the past few months. In unionizing under the CODE-CWA campaign, the Apple employees also join fellow workers in the tech sector, like those at Google and Activision Blizzard.
At least six other stores are in the midst of union organizing, suggesting that there could be a nationwide appetite for unionizing Apple stores. Apple employees at a store in Grand Central Station in New York City recently announced that they’re seeking to unionize under Workers United using the name “Fruit Stand Workers United.” They are in the process of gathering enough signatures to petition for an election.
Organizers hope that the Atlanta union will help set off a wave of union filings across the country, much like the union campaign currently being waged by Starbucks workers. According to Genius Bar worker Derrick Bowles, workers were inspired to unionize after seeing Amazon workers organize their campaign in Bessemer, Alabama. Though Amazon employees’ first union election failed — due to illegal tampering from the company, the NLRB ruled — Apple Workers Union was inspired by their efforts.
“Right now, I think, is the right time because we simply see momentum swinging the way of workers,” Bowles told Bloomberg Law. “As we sat back and re-evaluated, what we realized is that we love being at Apple — and leaving Apple, that’s not something any of us wants to do. But improving it is something we wanted to do.”
Starting pay for workers at the Cumberland Mall store is about $20 an hour, which workers say isn’t enough to live on in Atlanta. The union plans to ask for wages to be raised to at least $28 an hour and for wage raises to match inflation and reflect high profits that the company is reporting. For fiscal year 2021, Apple reported record revenues, with a net income of $94.7 billion — up a whopping 48 percent over the previous year.
According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology living wage calculator, a living wage in Cobb County, where the mall is located, is about $17 an hour for a single adult with no children and $31 an hour for a single adult with one child; however, this data was calculated between 2020 and 2021, and surging inflation rates may have raised those numbers.
Apple makes a significant amount of its revenue through its brick and mortar stores; as of 2019, the company was making roughly 30 percent of its overall revenue from its retail stores. Workers say that managers at the Grand Central Station store are trying to convince workers that there’s no need for a union, and that the company has emphasized its workers pay and benefits in response to the union campaign.
“Somebody has got to be the first to do something,” Bowles told Bloomberg Law. “Being first doesn’t matter to us — doing it is what matters to us. And if we have to be first, we will be first.”