Fruit Stand Workers United complain of Apple's 'union busting' tactics

From Reed Albergotti's "Workers at Apple’s Grand Central store move toward unionizing" posted Saturday by the Washington Post:

apple grand central unionWorkers at Apple’s flagship Grand Central Terminal retail location in Manhattan have begun to formally collect signatures to form a union, according to a newly updated website launched by the organizers, setting the stage for a showdown between the iPhone maker and the employees who sell them.

The organizers, who have dubbed themselves “Fruit Stand Workers United,” say they voted Feb. 21 to affiliate with Workers United, a national labor union that has supported the successful unionization efforts of Starbucks employees around the country, according to the site. People involved in the organizing effort told The Washington Post that they have endured months of efforts by Apple to convince employees that unionizing is a bad idea, accusing the company of “union busting” tactics. Now, they are handing out signature cards to would-be union members...

apple grand central unionApple retail employees interviewed by The Post have said that despite the company’s success, their pay has not kept up with inflation, and some complain of difficult working conditions, including the inability to hold managers accountable for alleged unfair or abusive practices. Apple retail employees can earn from $17 to more than $30 per hour, depending on their market and position, and receive between $1,000 and around $2,000 in stock, they said. Employees say Apple’s hourly rates are usually in line with other retail jobs in the regions where they’re employed. But Apple, valued at $2.7 trillion, is no ordinary company.

My take: We expected Apple management would have a hard time steering between its shareholders' interests and the principles laid out in its Supplier Responsibilities (Section 1.1.1):

Supplier shall respect Workers’ lawful rights to form or participate (or refrain from forming or participating) in organizations of their choosing, including but not limited to unions.

See also: Will Apple fight unionization?

13 Comments

  1. Michael Goldfeder said:
    The underlying theme of this current generation is that they want to run the company they work for and not just work for the company. IIRC, a union doesn’t get their members ESOP benefits. If a person doesn’t like their job they can leave and go find a better one. It’s called the free movement of labor.

    Let them all go and find a job that: “Lets their heart sing.” That one just makes me giggle nonstop. Managerial abuse and under appreciation? When someone else signs your paycheck, that’s how it is. They’re overvaluing their worth to Apple by going down this road. But that’s how everyone learns life’s lessons. The hard way. Nobody is irreplaceable.

    Another outgrowth of this generation is their inclination to have everything delivered to them by Door Dash, Grub Hub, Uber Eats, and other food delivery services that charge a premium for bringing food to their doorstep. Personally, I cannot reconcile that type of ridiculous and unnecessary expense. Nor could my parents. But this entitled generation just expects everything on a silver-plate paid for by someone else. Or better yet, increase my wages so I can enjoy the entitled lifestyle no other generation ever envisioned.

    Best of luck and don’t let the door hit your a#* on the way out.

    6
    April 16, 2022
    • Michael, I think we know where you stand on collective bargaining. But I’m not sure how it applies to the “current generation.” I’ve posted a chart above showing the decline of union membership in the U.S. Despite the post-COVID blip, it’s never been lower.

      1
      April 17, 2022
    • Tommo_UK said:
      People are entitled to unionise if they like.

      If their employer doesn’t like it, jobs are plentiful enough that their best talent will just leave.

      The prospect of unionisation is what should maintain the balance of power.

      3
      April 17, 2022
  2. Tommo_UK said:
    Yet again TC is losing the narrative and the war while fighting battles against regulators and unionisation with lawyers.

    However ill-intended he is caring himself to those who want to ruin Apple’s reputation as a typical old school industrialist. SJ spent his life avoiding that. On this one area – optics – TC has done nothing but trip over his shoelaces and the anti-Apple factions and media payola shills are loving every opportunity to take the company down a notch.

    TC is a logistics and operations genius. But he’s letting a lot of utterly unnecessary reputational damage take place on his watch by not staying ahead of the narrative by shaping instead of being whiplashed by it.

    1
    April 17, 2022
  3. Jerry Doyle said:
    @Tommo_UK: Tommo my friend, I disagree respectfully with your characterization of TC running Apple. TC is recognized in the corporate and media worlds as the epitome of CEO excellence in the running of a major corporation. The man has navigated with precision multiple geo-political events to the advantage of his company, shareholders and employees. His ability to walk through the previous administration’s minefield and retain the support of that administration and its president was “jaw-dropping.” If this is what you reference as tripping over his shoelaces, then we need to keep supplying brother Tim with more of those longer shoe laces.

    The existence of the anti-Apple factions and media payola shills is due to the company’s success under TC. The world loves to build champions and then commence immediately tearing them down. We see this played out everywhere from successful companies, sports teams and to political leaders. If Tim Cook is running Apple into the ground, then I am sure the corporate world welcomes more Tim Cooks into their fold running their respective companies similarly with the same success.

    My view on Unions: Unions have their strengths and they have their weaknesses. Yet, history has shown explicitly that in industrialized nations Unions have been the most powerful force in building social protections, not just for their own members, but for all society.

    Little doubt exists in my mind that Apple is an exemplary Employer, but if Apple is and continues to be an exemplary Employer then Apple has nothing to fear from unionization of its workers. In a large company workers can become gobbled up in issues relative to the administration, management and operations within the organization. Unions often are able to identify and to protect workers from inherent systemic problems that fly under the radar ensuring that all workers are treated in a “fair & equitable manner.”

    Summary: The corporate world needs more Tim Cooks.

    10
    April 17, 2022
    • Fred Stein said:
      Thanks Jerry, for your strong defense of TC and Apple.

      Back to the Post’s story, or rather the excepts above: Like most Apple bashing articles, it has no facts, not even the percent of employees who have signed. The article has loaded phrases like ‘endured months of…’ and “union busting”, but provides no specific abuses.

      The article does state the stock benefit, which is great if held for any length of time.

      Having Apple in your resume, can help regardless of your station in life now or future.

      4
      April 17, 2022
    • Tommo_UK said:
      Gates Packard Dell and Bell were all hailed as miraculous leaders in their time. Look at their reputations now.

      TC is off his meds when it comes to dealing with regulators and officialdom. Jobs knew how to play hard ball in private, dead pan when needed and reach out for public support and achieve buy in.

      TC has taken this aspect of Apple’s successful engagement strategy for granted and not evolved it. The mess we’re seeing are a result of decisions made by TC, mow in the public domain, to lawyer up and push until something breaks in a bid to get an edge.

      However good his intentions, they are undermined by his visible tactics.

      0
      April 20, 2022
  4. Michael Goldfeder said:
    Tim Cook is by far the best CEO around. Perhaps even the GOAT based on how he has led Apple through a world wide pandemic, supply chain disruptions, but also by the way he’s been able to connect with a POTUS with whom he probably didn’t care for on a personal or voting level.

    As for Apple “losing the narrative” based on a handful of self entitled generational spoiled brats who have accomplished nothing of even trivial significance in their life other than a few participations trophies for getting up on a Saturday morning when they were in Middle School and driven to the park for a game of croquet by Mommy and Daddy in a gas guzzling SUV, they offer nothing of value. Other than constantly sniveling about being mistreated and not valued at work. But they all do want to be important.

    Perhaps one or two might have even read a remarkable piece of literature such as “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair. But then they warp that impressive piece of writing into thinking that they are somehow being deprived of their “mental health” days while working in a far more grueling job at Starbucks, Chipotle, or even Apple that in their myopic minds transcends the vile conditions in meat packing plants Upton exposed where others truly toiled.

    The New York Yankees have won 27 World Series titles as a franchise. That encompasses a lot of Jimmie and Joe’s over the decades. Apple has accomplished similar achievements in a world wide arena that exceeds the Yankees’ success. Now all of a sudden this soft as a two minute egg generation wants instant acknowledgment without ever putting in the sweat equity or start up capital. But believes that by actually having to work in an Apple Store where nobody is subject to the risks of falling off a metal girder on a skyscraper, or losing a hand changing couplings on box cars on a high speed moving train necessitates unionization.

    Don’t get me started on coming back into the office or increasing their number of mental health days. They need to grow up and perhaps the best way to facilitate that process is to give them a cardboard box and collect their entry badges. As we all probably discovered early on in life, every business needs employees and every employee is expendable. That formula hasn’t changed in this millennium either. Despite their constant need for adoration and respect.

    4
    April 17, 2022
  5. Gary Morton said:
    It is a strange time when companies like Starbucks which are known and hailed for their employee friendly practices find themselves embroiled in unionization efforts. What some Starbucks employees would hope to gain by committing a percentage of their wages to union dues is difficult to understand. The only obvious beneficiaries would be the newly appointed union leaders who would receive compensation through those dues. For those would be future union leaders, spinning the narrative about the benefits their members would gain is akin to attempting to sell ice to eskimos. But, these are strange times.

    2
    April 17, 2022
  6. Tom Farris said:
    California union teachers pay – 3rd in the nation
    California education ranking in the nation: 37th or 46th…

    Both dependent on how you phrase the question.
    Not a fan of unions in the U.S.. Government sector unions are just another name for corruption.

    3
    April 17, 2022
  7. Bob Goldstein said:
    I think if the Apple employees have grievances they have a right to organize. If they have legitimate issues maybe the employees will vote yes, or if the majority feels they are treated well they will vote no. As far as $30 an hour, it’s called negotiating.
    It seems that working retail in an Apple Store is a plum job for someone with no experience, I told my teenage daughter to apply. I love that a benefit is that they get stock with their pay.
    There are some very anti union comments. I think if you have it together to have a career that you need to be highly educated for as it seems most of the people in this group have, or that you were driven enough to start your own business then yes no need for a union.
    My son is working on his masters for computer science, specializing in AI and Machine Learning and robotics. He won’t need to be in a union. I’m hoping the same for my daughter who starts college this fall.
    I on the other hand was in the printing unions. First the International Typographical Union and then Teamsters. I have been getting my Teamster pension since retiring when I was 57 and I get a small pension from the ITU.
    There is no doubt that the union was able to negotiate better work conditions for us, better pay, health care and pensions. It was easy to compare to the workers at non union newspapers. I did not mind paying union dues as we got so much for the money we paid out

    0
    April 19, 2022
    • Michael Goldfeder said:
      @Bob: While my comments could be construed as anti union, they’re not. I was a former union member and I have my opinions on how those funds were misused and squandered on drinking and other endeavors by leadership I chose not to support with my dues. My comments are directed more to jobs that most kids have growing up such as doing construction in 90+ degree heat, or roofing jobs with hot tar under sunny summer skies. IMO, those are the gateway type jobs that instill both a work ethic, in addition to helping a 16 year old child decide if that’s something they want to do for the rest of their lives, instead of going to a trade school or University.

      Not much danger or real world stress IMO working in an air-conditioned Apple Store that necessitates “unionization.” But that’s just me. This generation believes in: “Universal Basic Income.” My parents believed in: “Go out and find yourself a job!” I’m a chip off the old block. A jagged chip at that.

      They’re

      0
      April 19, 2022
  8. Tommo_UK said:
    Don’t get me wrong. TCs a genius COO. He’s just no CEO. He’s not a salesman. Jobs was that rarest of breeds, a salesman who also got product and strategy. TC isn’t a salesman. He’s a tactician and strategist.

    He’s succeeded in areas SJ couldn’t have hoped to have made inroads into, but in doing so he’s taken the magic away. There’s always a trade of&.

    TC never dropped acid on the beaches of California and had a dream. That counts for sometime. Ask Ben & Jerry 🙂

    0
    April 20, 2022

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