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Apple store in Atlanta first to file to form a union

Employees say they expect Apple to resist the effort

(Bing Guan/Bloomberg News)

An Apple retail store in Atlanta filed a petition to unionize Wednesday, becoming the first of the iPhone maker’s locations to undertake an official attempt to do so.

The store, in the Cumberland Mall, has been gathering support for unionization for months, according to an employee at the store working to organize the effort and others familiar with the effort.

The Wednesday filing is the latest sign of an awakening of American labor that has been years in the making and was accelerated by the global pandemic that both strained the American workforce, reminded it of its importance and led to a shortage of workers. Everyone from Starbucks baristas, Amazon warehouse workers, and video game testers have had newfound success in efforts to organize, and a willingness to take on “union busting’ efforts by corporate America, a term often used by workers to describe efforts to steer them away from collective bargaining.

The Washington Post first reported in February that several Apple retail stores around the country are in various stages of unionization efforts. On Saturday, The Post reported that the Apple retail location at Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan was gathering signatures for support of a unionization effort.

Some U.S. Apple Store employees are working to unionize, part of a growing worker backlash

The Post has spoken with several other Apple stores that are planning to unionize but has agreed to withhold the details until the stores have made their intentions publicly known because the stores fear Apple will interfere with the efforts.

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Apple, in response to the Atlanta store’s petition, said that “we are fortunate to have incredible retail team members and we deeply value everything they bring to Apple. We are pleased to offer very strong compensation and benefits for full time and part time employees, including health care, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, annual stock grants and many other benefits.”

The Communications Workers of America, a union working with the employees in Atlanta, did not respond to requests for comment.

News of the store’s plans to officially file for a union election Wednesday was first reported by Bloomberg News.

The National Labor Relations Board confirmed Wednesday that it had received the petition from the Atlanta store and is in the process of determining whether the union is qualified to hold an election.

In interviews with The Post, Apple store employees cited pay and poor communication with their managers and the company’s corporate offices as reasons they wanted to unionize. While Apple employees, who earn a minimum of $20 per hour and are eligible for stock grants, are paid in line with other retail workers in their areas, they say the pay should be better consider the company’s record-breaking profits and revenue.

Workers at Apple’s Grand Central store move toward unionizing

Employees also complain about the company’s centrally-managed scheduling system that is set a month in advance and gives employees little ability to modify it, should changes in their schedule come up.

Employees at the Grand Central Terminal store named themselves “Fruit Stand Workers United,” and posted a web site urging employees to unionize. “Grand Central is an extraordinary store with unique working conditions that make a union necessary to ensure our team has the best possible standards of living in what have proven to be extraordinary times,” the web site reads.

The Fruit Stand Workers United say on the web site that they want a minimum hourly wage of $30 per hour in addition to a handful of improved benefits, from more vacation time to better retirement options.