Apple Together engages corporate workers in the union effort

Earlier this year, Former Apple software engineer Cher Scarlett received a distraught DM from an Apple Retail employee at Grand Central Station in New York City. The employee was working with a union to organize her store, but the partnership was dissolved. Adrift, she texted Scarlett to let off steam. The employee knew Scarlett as the founder of #AppleToo, a campaign launched last summer to shed light on allegations of workplace discrimination and harassment. Scarlett was a strong advocate for workers’ rights and she knew exactly who to call.

Scarlett had recently met a Workers United organizer at a rally for unionized employees at Starbucks, where she worked. “I was like, wait a minute. You are in New York. Workers United started in New York. I have a connection. She made an introduction and the Grand Central campaign was revived. In April, they went public with their organizing campaign, posing as United Workers Fruit Stand.

The campaign is one of many organizing efforts underway at Apple Stores across the country, both public and underground. Increasingly, they’ve found support from current and former Apple headquarters employees, in part through a solidarity union called Apple Together, which Scarlett helped found and which emerged from the #AppleToo campaign. . The group’s Discord server has over 250 employees and provides a space to swap stories, share resources, learn more about the organization, and coordinate campaigns. About a third of the group comes from the company’s workforce, while the rest comes from retail stores and AppleCare. Several vetted union reps hang out on Discord, ready to talk to anyone interested in organizing their workplace.

The forum also helps workers recognize when their personal struggles are shared. “Lots of people have joined our Discord server and say seeing these stories is really what got them started speaking for themselves,” says Janneke Parrish, former Apple Maps program manager who helped organize Apple Together. (Parrish was fired last year after helping organize #AppleToo. Apple said her firing was not retaliatory, while Parrish disagrees.)

Apple’s corporate culture is notoriously secretive, separating workers from each other in the interest of protecting upcoming launches. This product secrecy sometimes extends to working conditions, says an Apple Together organizer, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. But between the introduction of Soft in 2019 and the formation of Apple Together, “it’s probably the least siled we’ve been in years,” she says.

The emergence of Apple Together coincides with an inflection point for the company’s workforce, which has been difficult Apple on issues ranging from salary equity to his return to office policy. Workers at Atlanta Cumberland Mall filed a petition for a union election in late April with the Communication Workers of America, and this month employees in Towson, Maryland filed an election petition with the International Association of Machinists and Industrial Workers. aerospace. the big central station store is collecting signatures and also plans to deposit.

At the Towson site, employees finally hope to have a say in their working conditions, explains Kevin Gallagher, who has worked there for several years. “I think there are a lot of misconceptions about the type of work and the skills needed to do the work that we do,” he says. “People think, ‘Oh, this is a retail store. They must be teenagers working while they’re in college. We have people in their 50s and 60s working here doing a highly skilled work.

Gallagher recalls how Apple offered free battery replacements to customers in 2016, flooding outlets with aggrieved customers without significantly changing staffing levels. (It didn’t help, he says, that exposed iPhone batteries could catch fire during the repair process, which is known in industry as a “thermal event.”) It seemed to him that no one at the company had thought about how the program would affect retail employees. This pattern would reappear in the following months and years, he says, such as when the company lifted its mask mandate and several of his colleagues subsequently contracted Covid-19. Apple declined to comment for this story.

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