Workers at Apple in Towson, who won national attention after becoming the first of the tech giant’s U.S. employees to unionize, are headed to bargaining amid complaints that the store’s workers are being excluded from new benefits rolling out companywide.
Apple informed retail and corporate staff that it will expand benefits for health care and educational classes, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday. The story, which cited unnamed people familiar with the matter, said employees will be given additional funds for courses, while workers in some states will have access to new health plans.
But workers in Towson, the sole unionized U.S. retail location, won’t be eligible, Bloomberg reported.
They were told “the Towson store needs to negotiate benefits with Apple via the collective bargaining arrangement that comes with a union,” the report said.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
Workers at Apple’s Towson Town Center store voted 65-33 in June to join the Washington-based International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers through a newly formed Coalition of Organized Retail Employees.
Employees raised concerns over compensation, fairness and COVID-19 safety, and joined a national wave of organizing during the pandemic. Employees had said they hoped other Apple store workers would follow their lead.
The union representing those workers issued a statement Wednesday, saying they were responding to “news reports that Apple will exclude [union] members in Towson, Md., from certain educational and medical benefits offered to all other Apple employees.”
“Despite the news from Apple today, our goal is still the same,” the union’s statement said. “We are urging Apple to negotiate in good faith so we can reach an agreement over the next few weeks.”
The Evening Sun
A negotiating committee for the union is committed to reaching a deal that gives members “respect and dignity at work,” while setting a standard in the tech industry, the statement said.
The Towson store workers’ decision to unionize came less than two months after Starbucks baristas in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood became the first of the coffee chain’s Maryland employees to organize.
Unionization efforts have grown stronger amid pandemic-related labor shortages that emboldened workers to stand up for themselves. But labor experts have warned that many of the recent campaigns are in the early stages and will likely face difficulty in a process tilted in favor of employers.
While Apple can change or increase benefits companywide, it is obligated by law to bargain over most changes to working conditions for unionized workers.
That potentially could discourage employees elsewhere from unionizing or lead to greater tension between workers and management.
The Bloomberg story said Apple’s new benefits include prepaying some tuition for outside education in advance, as opposed to reimbursing workers. Workers also are expected to have access to free memberships to online course provider Coursera Inc. starting in January.
And, the report said, workers in states such as Connecticut, Georgia, New Jersey, New York and Washington will have a new health care plan available that waives co-pays for some approved doctors within the UnitedHealth Group network.