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Group floating idea of an Apple Retail worker's union

updated 07:00 pm EDT, Thu May 19, 2011

Few details, membership yet available

A mass media mailing, a nearly-blank web page, Facebook and Twitter pages and a press release are all that is known of a group calling itself the Apple Retail Worker's Union, hoping to generate enthusiasm for the idea of unionizing Apple's retail workers, which number over 16,000 -- a substantial portion of Apple's overall workforce. On the tenth anniversary of the opening of the first retail store, the anonymous group says "our time has come," saying that they work for "one of the most demanding retail environments while suffering through unfair treatment and compensation."

Retail unions are fairly rare, and starting a new one is enormously difficult, though if there were sufficient interest the retail workers for Apple could be chartered as a union under the wing of one of the existing unions for retail employees, such as the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store union, which represents workers in the U.S. and Canada. The size of the Apple Retail Worker's Union is unknown, though the website domain is registered to an unknown person in San Francisco who claims to work at an Apple store in the Bay Area.

There have been rumors of Apple retail workers in the Pacific Northwest wanting to organize, and an alleged "collective meeting" of employees and managers at the Alderwood Mall store in Lynnwood, Washington -- but on the whole Apple retail employees are well-paid and say they are well-treated compared to most other retail jobs, though the anonymous organizer of the union told MacWorld via e-mail that the grievances he is focused on revolve around break schedules, training opportunities, the hiring and promotion process and other issues.

Apple is known to ask a lot from their retail employees, including long hours during holiday or special-announcement periods, extensive training and refresher training on a constantly-shifting product lineup, and detailed, in-depth technical knowledge of not only Apple's own hardware and software but also of various third-party programs. At present, the effort to unionize appears to be a small one, with only five followers on Twitter and 34 "likes" on Facebook.

Business Insider last year ranked Apple as the fourth-best tech company to work for, a ranking they formulated with the assistance of Glassdoor, a web site devoted to cataloging company stats, along with good and bad things said about various companies by their (anonymous) employees. The report, which came out last summer, listed complaints mostly centered around the idea that the company is too nice to customers, specifically relying too heavily on customer surveys to determine hiring and firing decisions, or penalizing workers for spending too much time on the phone with customers.

While the comments quoted from employees is generally very positive, a few complained about the long hours, difficulty of advancing and "stagnant" wages. Apple specialists at Apple Stores averge nearly $12 per hour (varies by region) and Apple Geniuses average around $18 per hour. Glassdoor itself ranked Apple one of the top 50 places to work overall (at 19th), but that includes non-retail positions such as software engineering and management jobs. The Human Rights Campaign, a lobbying and activist group representing mainly gay and transgender people, also ranked Apple as one of the more gay-friendly employers in the U.S.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is consistently "approved of" by over 97 percent of employees, one of the highest such figures on record for a corporate CEO. As part of his former duties at Pixar and as a board member at Disney, he has had to deal with unions before. The Apple Retail Worker's Union group acknowledges on their Twitter feed that they "love working for Apple, but want it to be better."

by MacNN Staff




  1. Arne_Saknussemm

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Unions within Apple? Ha!

    Just as soon as h*** freezes over

  1. TheSnarkmeister

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Right, this makes sense, because Apple's retail workers, who basically beg for jobs at Apple so that they can play with the toys they love to play with, are treated so poorly, what with all that equality treatment they receive and all. This is why Americans have grown to disrespect unions. Their purpose in contemporary America is merely to pamper the already pampered.

  1. LenE

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Unions are dying in the US (Thank God!)

    A few years ago, the United Auto Workers (UAW) tried to organize the graduate students at the Ivy League school that I worked at. Forget for a moment that there is little commonality between minimally educated wrench turners and this group of highly educated but lowly paid slaves of professors who wouldn't know a wrench if they were hit with one. This was a very "progressive" school with a very pro-Uniion and pro-Communist Industrial and Labor Relations college that cheerlead the whole effort. At this liberal bastion, the UAW were voted down 2-to-1.

    Why would the UAW try to organize people working on advanced degrees? It is because their membership is way down, and membership equates to political power. Each grad student would have been another dues-paying member that counted in their flock. Unions are dying in the US, because they do not offer a good value proposition anymore.

    When you treat your employees well enough, they will never unionize. Most intelligent people realize that when unions enter the work place today, professionalism and achievement are the first casualties, as the union's goals are never really aligned with theirs. Workplaces that tolerate rampant sub-mediocrity (like most government offices) are the last bastions for unions in the US.

    -- Len

  1. gskibum3

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No Way

    My sense of dignity prevents me from ever being a member of a union.

    I would be overwhelmed with the shame.

    I'd probably wind up dead if I were forced to join a union because I'd never relent in telling the union leaders where they can stick my mandatory membership dues. And I would sure be using awfully colorful language.

  1. ggirton

    Joined: Dec 1969


    if Apple is one of the best places

    to work, then it follows their union would be one of the best unions!

    I see no harm in letting them try to organize for collective bargaining, and it is certainly legal to do so.

    I know that if my employer wanted me to work all night this weekend, and have a mandatory meeting at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, I wouldn't feel at all uncomfortable about having a union shop steward who could voice my complaint if that kind of thing happened all the time. Since I have a life.

  1. cutmoney

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Say No To Unions

    Unfortunately I don't have the time right now to fully express my negative feelings towards unions, so let's just say that Apple would be much worse off if this ever occurs...

  1. The Vicar

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Boy, the morons are out in force

    You want to know why America is going down the tubes? It's because people have become convinced that it's "beneath their dignity" to stand up for their rights. We let the very rich con us into believing that unregulated markets work best -- despite ample evidence in history to the contrary; the Great Depression being only one example -- and then let their media proxies distract us with moronic "cultural" issues while they moved all the manufacturing jobs overseas.

    Everyone who says unions are bad is a self-hating idiot, unless they are also a millionaire, in which case they merely a vile sociopath.

  1. QualleyIV

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Once had their place. That time is gone. Now, unions are for lazy $hitbags who think that they're "entitled" to much more than they're worth to the company.

  1. chas_m




    to see Americans who have been so brainwashed they don't even know that unions are THE ONLY REASON jobs in America pay better, have more benefits and better work conditions than jobs in third-world countries.

    Don't want unions? No problem, the Republican party's getting rid of them as fast as they can. Soon, life will be as good as it is in Bangalore! In fact, many of you might end up IN Bangalore, training younger and hungrier people how to do your job before its exported.

    I find it amazing how fast the quality of life is falling in the US, and everyone seems to glued to the scandal of the day to notice that 90 percent of you aren't doing as well as your grandparents did. So this is how empires fall ... they rot from within.

  1. localnet

    Joined: Dec 1969


    This sounds familiar...

    This was twenty years ago outside of Detroit, the guys in our shop decided to unionize through the UAW thinking they would benefit. Well, the first thing to go was 20% of my pay, because I had not been there for a year, though I was more experienced in my field than many there. Then the dues, I think it was $70 a month that was extracted out of our pay.

    My pay was now roughly $750 less every month, it was like losing a full weeks pay, and here I was on track for a raise at the time. But now we were under a union contract, there were no raises, and no recourse. I would have to wait 3 years to get back to where I was financially when I first hired on, and there was no way around it. It was now about time on the job, not ones skill set or abilities, I either had to suck it up or find another job. I left soon after, and eventually the shop closed their doors as the union demands ramped up. The shop was shuttered and roughly 40 guys and gals lost their jobs as the work was transferred to TN, a right to work state. These employees were not offered jobs in TN, as no one wanted them.

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