I have long been a fan of Apple products. In fact, I have never bought another desktop. I am also a great believer in labour unions. So reading about an Apple store in Maryland unionizing made my day. Two of my favourites making a perfect couple—a marriage made in heaven.
The new union will join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The association’s president congratulated the workers, saying “I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory. They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election.”
This is the first Apple store to unionize but stores in at least two other locations are moving toward votes. Apple, and I find this sad but not surprising, has hired a law firm known for its union expertise and provided talking points for management to dissuade workers from signing up. Tech companies lead the 21st century in technology but often seem to be stuck in the 19th when it comes to dealing with their workers.
With the decline of manufacturing jobs in the U.S., union membership collapsed. Leverage for workers to negotiate their working conditions collapsed along with the unions. Without unions, workers are left at the mercy of employers and employers have taken full advantage.
Income growth for middle and lower income households has slowed sharply since about 1980 while incomes for high income households have continued to grow strongly. Concentration of income at the very top has risen to levels last seen a century ago. For a period following the Second World war, growth in prosperity was shared equally among all income groups. That era ended in the 1970s.
Manufacturing jobs were not always great. Early in the 20th century, workers often toiled in dirty, dangerous workplaces for low pay and long hours. But largely due to unionization, those jobs were transformed into the well-paid, stable and desirable jobs they became. What unions did for manufacturing they can do for the jobs of today. We need to repeat history.
And that’s what Apple employees, joining workers at Amazon, Starbucks, and other corporations, are attempting to do. The Maryland vote still has to be officially certified by the National Labor Relations Board, but the prospects look good. And the efforts are growing. As the victorious group tweeted after the results of their vote was announced, “Now we celebrate … tomorrow we keep organizing.” Solidarity Forever.