Video produced and edited by Libby Rainey and Josh Hirschfeld-Kroen
Apple Store workers in Maryland are attempting to form the company’s first U.S. union. They join two other stores, one in Atlanta and one in NYC, in their efforts to unionize. We spoke to the Apple retail workers leading the drive to unionize the Towson Mall store. Below is a full transcript of the video:
Kevin Gallagher: We talk about this country as like a place where democracy thrives, but we work 80% of our lives in an environment where we have no democracy. We have no vote in the things that affect us.
Christie Pridgen: Apple has all the power, influence, and money to be able to make a significant change in what labor is. It’s an opportunity, like, they didn’t start it, they didn’t begin this initiative—we did. All they have to do is follow up.
Workers at an Apple store in Maryland are unionizing to bring democracy to the richest company in the world.
Kevin: I have been with, uh, Apple Towson for seven tears, at the end of May.
Christie: Eight years and some change, so like, eight and a half almost.
Billy Jarboe: Almost ten years in and it’s like, *woah* I’m actually being honest with these feelings that keep coming up over the years, that I’m giving way more than is fair, really. April 2018 we had this “batterygate” incident. It was a very big deal, and the effect on the store was traumatic.
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Billy: And this is pre-COVID—so we’re talking sardines packed inside a tiny container of a store, and it boiling over. This anxiety of really just being yelled at constantly because of something I can’t have any control over.
Kevin: It’s stressful, yeah. We are kind of the face of a giant company. Especially over the course of the pandemic, people have become really reliant on their technology. And when they don’t have their thing that works, they get really emotional. And we tend to be the person who takes the brunt of that kind of frustration and anger and fear, and it can be a lot.
Christie: You’re acting as like, a therapist to people. I’ve had people, like, cry on my shoulder. We’ve also had people threaten us with violence multiple times. It’s retail work: it’s sales, yeah; it’s technical, yeah. But it’s also like, there’s so much that you have to be able to be good at, to be able to know, to be able to anticipate.
Kevin: We want to create an environment where the people who have a lot of really skilled labor are being compensated are being treated with that level of respect that they deserve.
[Interviewer]: How did you get involved in the union effort?
Christie: Billy, KG, and I had had just conversations, you know, about what working looks like at other companies and then other countries as well.
Billy: The way that they teach you at Apple to teach the job skills to one another is how we did it with this information, right. We educated us first, and then the right people in the right order.
Kevin: Took it one person at a time, and just talked to everybody at the store. And eventually, we had enough people involved to make a difference.
Christie: Talking to our coworkers about what a union is, why do we need it. This is the way that, you know, we can make things better.
Apple is worth $3 trillion making it the most highly valued company in the world.
Billy: We make so much money. Apple: “Trillion, $3 trillion company.”
Christie: It does seem kind of preposterous to me that our CEO can make as much money in one year as he does, and you still have people struggling to find an apartment.
Kevin: Does he do a lot of work? I’m sure. Is it worth $98 million when you have people at your store who are barely scraping by, who can’t pay rent?
Apple hired anti-union law firm Littler Mendelson, the same company that’s helping Starbucks union-bust.
Kevin: Hiring a law firm that works with a company that has historically been extremely aggressive toward unionization efforts is troubling. I would hope that they live up to the code of conduct that they set for their suppliers.
Billy: The supplier code of conduct is on our damn website. It’s this international agreement that we’ve signed onto. And have anybody who is a vender or a factory or whatever, if those workers decide to unionize or organize Apple has a contract that says “we can’t get involved.” You can’t do anything to stop that. So it’s like…
Kevin: At the end of the day, this isn’t about being anti-Apple. We love our jobs, we love what we do. Really what we’re asking them to do is lead the forefront. Be a leading example when it comes to worker’s rights.
Christie: Apple has the resources to really take care of its employees. Use what you have for good. Use what you have for good. You could actually do good. You could bring dignity to this work.
Kevin: If we want to be different, if we want to think differently, then maybe we should treat our labor differently. Be the shining example for what a great retail work environment can be. When you look at the people at Amazon…
[Chris Smalls on video]: It’s the best feeling in the world.
Kevin: …the people at Starbucks, and you see yourself and go, “wow, that could be me.”
Billy: Proof that we can do it. Why can’t we do it too?
Christie: If you see a need for change, there is a way to do it. You might have to start it yourself.
Kevin: There’s a revolution coming and it’s going to be one retail store at a time.