Unionization challenges the Apple brand

“They have arguably the best brand. And putting people first is what the brand stands for.” -- Loup Ventures' Gene Munster

From Sebastian Herrera's "Apple Store Workers Seek to Unionize, Following Efforts at Amazon, Starbucks" in Monday's Wall Street Journal:

Apple is a unique entrant given its devoted brand following and marketing finesse, labor and tech analysts say, though employees face several hurdles in achieving success based on organizing efforts at other companies.

Apple’s retail stores have operated as much as a marketing tool as a retail channel, said Gene Munster, managing partner at tech investment firm Loup. Apple retail employees are part of a famed store ecosystem originally envisioned by late co-founder Steve Jobs, who sought to overhaul in-store shopping with aesthetically pleasing layouts and geeky associates who upheld Apple’s values.

“The point of these stores is for people to have a connection with Apple and have a great experience and tell people about it,” Mr. Munster said. “Now [Apple] may have to tweak the formula.”

"How [Apple] handles this is a marketing topic, too,” Mr. Munster said. “They have arguably the best brand. And putting people first is what the brand stands for.”

My take: The union brand is going to need more than tweaking, judging from the Journal's readers' comments.


  1. Tom Farris said:
    Since it appears that the ‘Genius’ bar was mostly decapitated some years ago and the ‘geniuses’ are now slightly more knowledgeable than the baggers at Safeway, with similar career trajectory, they might as well unionize.

    April 25, 2022
    • Jerry Doyle said:
      @Tom Farris: Tom, your comment has high merit. That was the basis for my similar comment on this subject matter last week when PED published “Atlanta Apple store first to file for Union (video).” However, as you can see from my follow-up comment today (below), that is not how Apple and many others view the existing Apple store retail staffs. They still see a staff functioning at a much higher level.

      April 25, 2022
  2. Jerry Doyle said:
    “…. My take: The union brand is going to need more than tweaking, judging from the Journal’s readers’ comments.”

    I would have agreed with PED’s statement up until last week until he published “Atlanta Apple store first to file for Union (video)” article. I commented on that article where I thought erroneously, that Apple workers lacked bargaining power. Brother Kirk DeBernardi reminded me (as appropriately) that Steve would have “abhorred” my proposal. Kirk was correct. Many other PED subscribers agreed with Kirk. That incident was an epiphany to me as a former Union Local president over a five state geographic area and as a former National Executive VP of a major Union Council in the AFL-CIO.

    The findings: Apple front-line store staff are “indispensable.” That was the conviction of Steve Jobs and that conviction still remains inculcated indelibly today in the mindset of even Apple followers on PED’s blog. It’s the ammunition Union officials need for negotiating a favorable contract for those workers.

    The findings: Apple does not see its retail workers as your typical store front employees. The Apple retail store employee plays an indispensable role in educating, in marketing and in sustaining Apple’s values burnished in the mindset of the consumer. Apple has elevated its retail store staffs to a higher level demanding a wage commensurate with the knowledge, skills, abilities, competencies and attitudes one expects from a worker functioning at this higher retail level. That’s is what is being implied and any good Union negotiator is going to exploit that recognition.

    Summary: Apple retail store staffs are not your typical store front workers.

    April 25, 2022
    • Steven Philips said:
      I suspect that if they unionize they will become “your typical store front workers”. Just probably paid more – because their company is so rich!

      April 25, 2022
  3. Fred Stein said:

    Apple has 500 stores globally employing 65K workers. In the US, it has 270 stores, of which 2 are mentioned as having the early stage of unionization.

    Impact? Minuscule, not worth calculating.

    April 25, 2022

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