Apple retail workers at the Grand Central store are trying to unionize
From Activision to Amazon, historic union elections are changing the way that Americans think about work. Now, Apple is the next tech giant to reckon with an employee-driven labor movement.
Calling themselves the Fruit Stand Workers United (FSWU), employees at Apple's Grand Central Terminal retail location launched a website designed to educate their fellow workers about why they want to unionize their store.
"Year over year, the cost of living in New York City has not kept pace with our wages," the FSWU's mission statement reads. "Meanwhile, Apple has grown to be the most valuable company in the world. Why should its retail workers live precariously?"
The collective will be affiliated with Workers United, the same group that has helped over 20 Starbucks locations form unions since December.
The FSWU is seeking a minimum of $30 per hour for all workers. Right now, wages range between $200 and $30 per hour, plus some Apple stock. They also want better benefits, including increased tuition reimbursement, more vacation time, better retirement options and higher match rates for 401(k)s. Since the Grand Central store faces unique challenges due to its location, they want to conduct research about the health effects from the dust, building materials and noise pollution in the busy landmark.
"Grand Central is an extraordinary store with unique working conditions that make a union necessary to ensure our team has the best possible standards of living in what have proven to be extraordinary times with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and once-in-a-generation consumer price inflation," the website reads.
The collective has begun the card signing process, which is a step toward filing for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). If at least 30% of workers sign cards indicating that they want a union, then the NLRB will conduct an election.
TechCrunch has reached out to Apple for comment, but did not hear back before publication.
So far, no Apple retail stores have unionized, but in February, the Washington Post reported that at least two stores were backed by major national unions and were prepared to file paperwork with the NLRB, while at least six more stores were in earlier stages of attempting to unionize. Around the same time, Apple doubled paid sick days for both full-time and part-time workers following reports from The Verge about the struggles of frontline Apple workers.
Tech workers at Apple have also participated in campaigns for better conditions, like the #AppleToo movement, which collects stories from workers who have experienced harassment or discrimination at Apple. Apple Maps program manager Janneke Parrish, an organizer of #AppleToo, was fired for "non-compliance" when she deleted personal files from her phone and computer before turning them over to Apple for investigation. She told the New York Times that she felt she was experiencing retaliation for her organizing. Another organizer of #AppleToo, software engineer Cher Scarlett voluntarily left Apple and received a settlement after withdrawing a complaint she submitted to the NLRB. In that complaint, she had alleged that Apple had interfered with organizing efforts among employees.
Update, 4/20/22, 10:30 AM ET: A previous version of this story stated that the minimum hourly rate at Apple is $17. An Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch that the minimum hourly rate is $20. The story has been corrected.