Workers at an Apple store in Oklahoma City will vote in a union election on October 13 and 14 in a bid to become the second unionized Apple store in the country and the first to unionize with the Communications Workers of America (CWA).
The election will be held in-person at Oklahoma City’s Penn Square Mall, where the Apple store is located. It comes three months after workers in Towson, Maryland became the first Apple store in the U.S. to unionize, voting in a landslide to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
Workers in Maryland overcame a strident anti-union campaign from Apple, and organizers in Oklahoma City are now hoping to do the same. They say they’re organizing for a voice in the corporation’s decision making, better pay including additional compensation for bilingual workers, more robust health and safety protections, and benefits and bonuses that match corporate employees.
Oklahoma City workers say they’ve faced a series of escalating anti-union tactics from management, including regular one-on-one “walk and talk” conversations between managers and workers, roundtable discussions about unionization, and, most recently, an influx of additional managers in the store.
“There’s probably been over a hundred conversations involving management speaking to employees about unions,” said Steven Meyer, who has worked at the Oklahoma City Apple store for more than six years.
Apple worker and union organizer Michael Forsythe told More Perfect Union that the store has been running operations with “skeleton crews” because so many workers are being pulled off the shop floor for conversations with managers. He says he thinks that’s also the reason Apple has called in additional managers to run the store.
“This is why they phoned these managers in…so our managers can continue union busting.” Forsythe said. “[The additional managers] are running the shifts. They’re on the floor supporting people and stuff like that so that our managers…can do roundtables and walk-and-talks.”
Kevin Herrera, an Apple worker who says he is supporting the union in part to win additional pay for himself and other bilingual colleagues, told More Perfect Union he had been pulled aside for one-on-one conversations with management.
“I was not prepared for it to be this way, if I’m honest,” Herrera said. “It has felt a little discouraging to have those things happening while also trying to do our jobs.”
Apple workers in Oklahoma say the anti-union talking points in these conversations have ranged from calling the union a third party organization to telling workers they could lose flexibility around scheduling if they unionize. Forsythe told More Perfect Union that at one recent roundtable, Apple managers presented an AT&T contract from 2020 and told workers that provisions in the contract could be bad for their store.
“Thankfully we had someone there from our [organizing] committee to say, ‘Well that’s an AT&T contract and that’s not something we would vote for,’” Forsythe said. “What worked for that AT&T store won’t work for our store because we’re Apple, they’re AT&T.”
Apple has moved aggressively to thwart a growing union movement at its stores. Within days of workers filing to unionize a first location, Apple announced pay raises at all U.S. stores and hired the same infamous union-busting firm used by Starbucks, Littler Mendelson. In May, Apple’s head of retail Deirdre O’Brien sent an anti-union video to all of Apple’s retail stores in the U.S., falsely claiming that Apple would not be able to provide “immediate, widespread” benefits if workers unionized. That same month, Apple workers in Atlanta, Georgia withdrew their union election bid with CWA. The union said, “Apple’s repeated violations of the National Labor Relations Act have made a free and fair election impossible.”
Workers at the Oklahoma City Apple store say they were first inspired to unionize by the Atlanta store’s efforts, and that they have learned from both the Towson and Atlanta union campaigns on how to fight their own battle with management.
As first reported by Bloomberg News’s Josh Eidelson, workers at the Oklahoma City store filed for a union election at the beginning of September with the support of around 70 percent of the workforce. As the union election approaches, workers say they are confident that they can maintain majority support by talking to colleagues about the benefits of unionizing.
“The more people come back and talk to me about the conversations they’re getting pulled aside for, the more confident I am that we are winning,” Forsythe said. “I don’t think Apple would be pulling old managers into our store if they didn’t think that we were winning.”