Retail workers at an Apple store in New Jersey vote against unionizing in the first such defeat for the CWA

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Apple Inc. retail employees in New Jersey have voted against unionization, the Communications Workers of America said, a setback for organizing efforts at the tech giant.

Employees at the store, located within a mall in upscale Short Hills, cast ballots Friday and Saturday in an election run by the US National Labor Relations Board.

CWA, which has filed complaints with the NLRB alleging illegal union-busting by Apple at the New Jersey store and others, blamed the defeat on the company’s behavior.

“Instead of leaving the decision up to the workers themselves, the company turned to its usual anti-union playbook to influence the results of the election,” CWA said in a statement. “Apple’s union-busting is a widespread problem that underscores workers’ need to have an independent voice on the job to ensure the company lives up to its credo. Only through a strong union contract can workers establish real respect and democracy on the job.” 

The union filed a complaint this week accusing the company of retaliating against a leader of the New Jersey organizing effort.

Apple, which has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, declined to comment on the result.

A pair of Apple stores in Maryland and Oklahoma both voted to unionize in 2022, a first for the company that has long resisted organizing efforts. Those victories were part of a pandemic-era wave of first-time organizing breakthroughs at prominent firms such as Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. At Starbucks Corp., more than 400 cafes have unionized over the past two and a half years.

But while employees at dozens of Apple stores have had discussions about organizing, those efforts have moved much more slowly than at Starbucks. Citing anti-union tactics by Apple, organizers withdrew unionization petitions at stores in Atlanta and St. Louis before elections could be held. The New Jersey Apple store election is the first one to make it to a vote and end in defeat for the union.

On Monday, the NLRB ruled that Apple violated federal labor law by “coercively interrogating” workers and confiscating union fliers at a World Trade Center store in New York, where organizing efforts never got far enough along to seek a vote. The NLRB’s prosecutors have also accused the company of illegally excluding unionized workers in Maryland from benefits it was providing their peers, and making anti-union threats in Kansas City.

Neither unionized Apple store has yet reached a contract with the company. Employees at the location in Towson, Maryland, who organized with the International Association of Machinists, voted Saturday to authorize a potential strike over what the union alleges has been a refusal by Apple to fairly negotiate. 

Outstanding issues driving the possible work stoppage include work-life balance, unpredictable scheduling and pay, the IAM said in an emailed statement. A date when workers could walk out “will be determined,” the union said.

In an emailed statement following the Maryland vote, an Apple spokesperson said the company worked hard to provide an “excellent experience” for employees. “We deeply value our team members and we’re proud to provide them with industry leading compensation and exceptional benefits. As always, we will engage with the union representing our team in Towson respectfully and in good faith.”

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