Inside the Apple Store’s Battle for Union Representation
Apple hired Littler Mendelson, an employment law firm, to ease the labor pressure. It also provided store managers with talking points, including that forming unions could lead to fewer promotions and inflexible hours, which was previously reported by Vice. Last week, its leaders urged employees not to join unions, and said they would raise wages to $22 an hour from $20.
Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of retail, said in a video sent to many of the company’s approximately 65,000 retail employees. The video was previously reported by The Verge.
Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock declined a request for interviews with Ms O’Brien and Alex Burruss, manager of the Cumberland Mall, which is about 10 miles from downtown Atlanta. And employees who are neutral or against union pressure have been reluctant to speak with the New York Times.
In a statement, Mr. Rosenstock said the company has offered numerous benefits to retail employees, including healthcare, tuition reimbursement and family leave. “We deeply appreciate everything they give Apple,” he said.
Apple has fended off a union push even as online orders play down the importance of its stores. About 6 percent of Apple’s sales come from retail locations, roughly half the share before the pandemic, according to Loup Ventures, a tech research firm.
Although the stores’ financial importance has diminished, employees like Ms. Rhodes view them as Apple’s physical connection to the wider world. She started at Apple because she loved their products. She bought her first iPhone at the age of 16 with the money she earned working at McDonald’s. She became obsessed with the company, tuning into hour-long product events to fuel a growing interest in “the way they work.”
In 2018, she impressed a store technician with her knowledge about the Apple Watch, which prompted a manager to encourage her to apply for a job in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. She later moved to Atlanta and moved to the Cumberland Mall store, located between a Bath & Body Works and Pandora’s jeweler.