Apple workers in Oklahoma City have voted to form the second-ever labor union at one of the company’s US stores, in the latest sign that organizing efforts are gaining traction inside and outside the tech and retail industries.
These workers are not alone.
- In a surprise victory, Amazon workers at a Staten Island warehouse voted in favor of unionizing in April, though similar efforts at other warehouses so far have been unsuccessful.
- In the Research Triangle area, a group of workers is attempting to organize a union at Amazon’s huge operation in Garner.
- Voting for an Amazon facility near Albany, New York, began on Wednesday and is expected go through Monday.
- Well over 200 U.S. Starbucks stores have voted to unionize over the past year, according to the NLRB.
In a preliminary tally by the National Labor Relations Board on Friday evening, 56 workers, or 64% of those casting ballots at the Penn Square Mall Apple store, voted to be represented the Communication Workers of America, and 32 voted against it. Turnout was strong, with 88 of a potential 95 workers participating in the vote.
The labor board said Friday that both parties have five business days to file objections to the election. If no objections are filed, the results will be certified, and the employer must begin bargaining in good faith with the union.
The union victory comes four months after Apple store workers in Towson, Maryland, made history by voting to form Apple’s first US unionized location. In late June, the NLRB officially certified the union election win.
Workers at both locations have said they’re looking to unionize in an effort to have more of a say in how their stores are run. Some also said they were inspired by union pushes this year at Amazon and Starbucks.
Apple did not directly address the vote results when asked for comment Friday.
“We believe the open, direct and collaborative relationship we have with our valued team members is the best way to provide an excellent experience for our customers, and for our teams,” said the company’s statement. “We’re proud to provide our team members with strong compensation and exceptional benefits. Since 2018, we’ve increased our starting rates in the US by 45% and we’ve made many significant enhancements to our industry-leading benefits, including new educational and family support programs.”
“We believe the open, direct and collaborative relationship we have with our valued team members is the best way to provide an excellent experience for our customers, and for our teams. We’re proud to provide our team members with strong compensation and exceptional benefits. Since 2018, we’ve increased our starting rates in the US by 45% and we’ve made many significant enhancements to our industry-leading benefits, including new educational and family support programs.”
The vote was roughly in line with what employees leading the organizing effort were expecting, according to Leigha Briscoe, one of the members of the organizing committee at the store.
“We felt like we had the majority support, and as long a people got out and cast their vote, we would win,” Briscoe told CNN Business late Friday after the vote tally.
Briscoe has been an employee at the store for six years. She said the employees who wanted to form a union approached CWA, rather than CWA trying to organize the store on its own.
Briscoe, 28, is typical of many of the younger workers leading successful union organizing drives nationwide in the wake of the pandemic. Many of the successful efforts, such as at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, and at more than 200 Starbucks stores nationwide, have been led by workers in their twenties or early thirties.
Between January and July of this year there were 826 union elections, up 45% from the number held in the same period of 2021, according to a CNN analysis of data from the NLRB. And the 70% success rate by unions in those votes is far better than the 42% success rate in the first seven months of 2021.
But only 41,000 potential union members were eligible to vote in the 2022 elections. Even if the unions had won all those votes — NLRB data don’t break down how many workers worked at each company holding a vote — it would be a small fraction of the more than 100 million workers at US businesses who don’t belong to a union, according to Labor Department statistics.
The retail sector has a far lower rate of unionization than some other industries. Labor Department data show only 4.4% of retail workers nationwide are members of unions, compared to 6.1% of employees working at businesses overall.
When including government employees, only 10.3% of workers nationwide are union members, roughly half the rate of union membership in 1983, the first year it was tracked by the Labor Department, when union membership made up 20.1% of the nation’s workers.
Oklahoma is not particularly fertile ground for union efforts. The Labor Department data show only 5.6% of workers overall are union members, barely more than half of the 10.3% national rate.
This story includes material from CNN and The Associated Press