Apple workers at New York’s Grand Central store take steps to unionize

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People shop in an Apple retail store in Grand Central Terminal, January 29, 2019 in New York City.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Workers at Apple‘s flagship Grand Central Terminal retail store in New York City are taking steps to unionize, teeing up a potential labor battle with the iPhone maker.

Organizers, who have dubbed themselves Fruit Stand Workers United, are in the process of collecting signatures from workers, according to FSWU’s website. Employees are seeking representation by Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, which has overseen the successful union efforts at some Starbucks stores in the U.S.

Organizers will determine the level of unionization support at their Apple store by collecting authorization cards from workers. It’s a key step before filing a union petition with the National Labor Relations Board.

FSWU is demanding higher wages and greater bargaining power with Apple over benefits, workplace safety and other employment matters. The group pointed to how Apple, the most valuable company in the world, has seen its fortunes grow, while “its retail workers live precariously.”

“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,” FSWU’s website states.

An Apple spokesperson told CNBC in a statement that the company offers “very strong compensation and benefits” for full-time and part-time employees. Apple pays its retail workers a starting wage of $20 per hour and provides benefits like parental leave and stock grants. It expanded sick days and other benefits for U.S. retail workers earlier this year.

“We are fortunate to have incredible retail team members and we deeply value everything they bring to Apple,” the spokesperson said.

Apple workers are seeking to unionize at a time when workplace activism is mushrooming across the country. Amazon workers at a Staten Island warehouse voted in the company’s first U.S. union earlier this month, and Starbucks baristas in several locations have voted to unionize. In late March, Google Fiber contractors in Kansas City, Missouri, supported a union effort, becoming the first workers with bargaining rights under the Alphabet Workers Union.

As of September, Apple said it had 154,000 employees around the world, although that figure includes international workers and the company’s corporate workforce, along with retail employees in 270 U.S. Apple Stores.

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