Monday, Oct. 03, 2022|
Share this story
TOWSON, Md. (AP) — The historic vote by employees of a Maryland Apple store to unionize — a first for the technology giant — is a significant step in a lengthy process that labor experts say is heavily stacked against workers in favor of their employers.
Apple store employees in a Baltimore suburb voted to unionize by a nearly 2-to-1 margin Saturday, joining a growing push across U.S. retail, service and tech industries to organize for greater workplace protections.
It’s not yet clear whether the recent wave of unionizations represent a broader shift in U.S. labor. But experts say the current shortage of workers for hourly and low-wage jobs means employees have more power than they had historically, especially when unemployment is low.
“It’s not that big a deal to lose one of these jobs because you can get another crummy job,” said Ruth Milkman, labor scholar at the City University of New York.
The question is, what happens now?
The Apple retail workers in Towson, Maryland, voted 65-33 to seek entry into the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union’s announcement said. The National Labor Relations Board now has to certify the outcome. Once the vote is certified, the union and Apple can begin negotiating a contract.
“Labor law in the United States is a long process. And so the fact that a single store negotiates or elects a union doesn’t mean that there’s a negotiated contract in the workplace. And we know in recent history that in many of these situations, parties are unable to come to terms on an initial contract,” Michael Duff, a former NLRB lawyer and professor at University of Wyoming College of Law, said Sunday.
“The employer in the United States has an awful lot of rights to simply withdraw recognition at the end of the process. The employer can prove that it no longer supports a majority of the employees in the bargaining unit,” Duff added.
Even after a union is certified, a company has a number of legal maneuvers at its disposal to fight it, Duff said.
For instance, Apple could say it doesn’t believe that the bargaining unit certified by the NLRB is an appropriate bargaining unit, and refuse to bargain with the union.
“If that happens, the whole thing goes to the courts and it could easily be a year or two before you even get the question of whether the employer is required to bargain with the union,” Duff added.
Labor experts say it’s common for employers to drag out the bargaining process in an effort to take the momentum out of union campaigns.
It’s also possible that Apple — or any other company — restructures its business so the unionized workers are reclassified as independent contractors and not employees, in which case the union vote is moot, Duff said.
Apple declined to comment on Saturday’s development, company spokesperson Josh Lipton told The Associated Press by phone. Reached again Sunday, Apple did not comment.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *