back to article Apple geniuses in Atlanta beat New York to the punch, file petition to unionize

Workers in Atlanta, Georgia, have become the first US Apple Store staff to file an official request to hold an union vote with America's National Labor Relations Board. "A number of us have been here for many years, and we don't think you stick at a place unless you love it," said Derrick Bowles, Apple Genius and …

  1. Winkypop Silver badge

    Stockholm syndrome?

    Still, good luck to them.

    1. MrDamage Silver badge

      Re: Stockholm syndrome?

      It's not like some of these "geniuses" have the qualifications to work elsewhere, but they are the front line who deal with the great unwashed, so more power to them.

      1. badflorist

        Re: Stockholm syndrome?

        "It's not like..."

        Right, because if you work at 1 place you're stupid and can't work anywhere else.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is interesting to see the moves to unionise

    As a public sector worker I have always been in a union though I sometimes question their value even as a former rep.

    Of course I don't know what the unions are like over in the States and I hope they are not as stuck in the past as the ones here frequently are.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: It is interesting to see the moves to unionise

      I fully agree.

      Unions are good when they are trying to raise workers from the hell of "minimum wage" employment with uncaring, greedy, money-first companies. So, I am fully supportive of the workers at Apple and Amazon trying to unionize.

      However, those of us in the UK with long memories may remember the "closed shop" proposals of the 1970s when it seemed that the boot was very much on the other foot and militaristic unions ruled the country instead of the government (not that the current bunch do much ruling, preferring instead to party and line their own pockets at everyone else's expense). The very small family-run company I worked for at the time, who tried their best to pay a decent wage, lived in fear that, if closed shop was imposed, it would effectively mean they would run at a loss, which would kill the company.

      So, unions are good in moderation - the other extreme is just as bad.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: It is interesting to see the moves to unionise

        I'm all for unions and worker representation. No buts, no qualifications.

        However, in the US, unions tend to favour closed shop arrangements and are often too close to politicians. For example, in the recent pandemic teachers unions in Chicago and California forced polticians into keeping schools closed, even though it was already known that this was extremely detrimental for many children. And, as data from Florida and elsewhere (and I think de Santis is a tool) showed, they were themselves at a lower risk of infection in school than out, and also a low risk of infection for teachers.

        US tech companies love talking about the benefits of share options, et al. but love extending the working day even more. Normalised data on US productivity casts a dim light on this.

      2. VoiceOfTruth

        Re: It is interesting to see the moves to unionise

        -> the "closed shop"

        Amen. I remember it. I'm glad that somebody else does.

      3. Fred Dibnah

        Re: It is interesting to see the moves to unionise

        I posted this recently on another thread, but it’s applicable here too:

        Companies get the unions they deserve. In the 1970s companies such as Ford & British Leyland had terrible bullying management, & they had endless industrial disputes with their unions as a result.

        If a company is run well & its employees are treated with respect, there is little or no need for the employees to form a union.

        1. Man inna barrel Bronze badge

          Re: It is interesting to see the moves to unionise

          "If a company is run well & its employees are treated with respect, there is little or no need for the employees to form a union."

          This is my view. My former boss, who is now sort-of retired, is very anti-union, I think based on what happened in the 70's. His view is that unions are not really relevant any more, because we don't have hordes of industrial workers in factories, as was the case in the early 20th century. Nowadays, you are much more likely to have high skilled workers doing specialist jobs, rather than a mass of anonymous labourers. In the high skilled environment, workers have something to sell as individuals, which evens up the employee-employer relationship.

          Though I tend toward liberal politics, there are quite a few things about unions that I don't think serve the interests of their members, or workers in general. One is the notion of class war, where workers and bosses are locked in eternal conflict. I presume this derives from Marxism. In practice, this war simply does not exist in most workplaces. There is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Businesses need workers. Workers need wages.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: It is interesting to see the moves to unionise

      I hope they are not as stuck in the past as the ones here frequently are.

      It depends on the union. Many are actually beneficial to both management AND employee, but this comes from many years of partnership, stock ownership plans, and a realization that pricing yourself out of a job is bad for EVERYONE.

      The idea is to bring a "win" to both sides of a labor dispute if you want to be a SUCCESSFUL union. In the far past, when unions were needed to right social wrongs, it was "robber barons" vs "the exploited". Nowadays, not so much.

      I hope a union does better than non-union for Apple Store employees; otherwise, they will become victims of exploitation on BOTH sides of the union (i.e. both management AND employee).

      Some years ago the Baker's union here in Southern Cali-Fornicate-You priced the Hostess bakers out of a job. Hostess went belly-up and sold all of their intellectual property to "Little Debbie", who did NOT re-open the union bakery in Cali-fornicate-you, but instead took up new production under the Hostess brand and used their newly acquired recipes to re-establish the brand. Successfully.

      Lesson learned: If you price yourselves out of a job, you might kill the company in the process.

      OK less likely with Apple, but still...

  3. philstubbington

    Aren’t these both locations where “employment-at-will” exists? Not sure how unionisation sits with that.

    1. MrDamage Silver badge

      At-will works both ways. Same as how the employer doesn't have to give notice, neither does the worker (despite companies trying to insist it's "law).

      The union would probably see it as "strike-at-will", no notice of impending industrial action needs to be given. Just call it.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      At will just means the people can be fired more easily, but it doesn't particularly restrict union activities. Firing people because they've conducted a union-related activity is still not allowed, and they can still be sued for it. The union members still have the power to use the value of their experience and rarity to their advantage, so unless there's a large supply of people willing and able to do the work needed in an Apple store in this area, they have the ability to cause Apple pain. If there are a lot of people who want to work there and don't want to join a union, then they could have more trouble with it as their members are replaced, but that's when a union can attempt to convince non-members that they can benefit by joining. If they can't do that, then they're probably not doing enough for the workers and need to change the plan.

    3. Pirate Dave Silver badge
      Pirate

      Yes, we're an At-Will state here in Georgia, and unions are viewed with a suspicious eye. And with good reason - those of us who were around in the 70's and 80's notice that many of the large, formerly-Union factories from that era now sit empty and unused. We remember the union strikes being on the nightly TV for months at a time, so we see how well that worked out for them in the long run.

      There is an enormous amount of manufacturing in this state, the vast majority of it is union-free. I think there are still unions down at Lockheed's plant in Marietta, and I've heard the horror stories about them from my former boss who'd been an engineer there - better not get caught operating a photocopier if you aren't in the Office Assistant's union, etc, etc. My oldest son is an electrician, and he has nothing good to say about the local IBEW or the people in it - quite the opposite, actually, he calls them "thugs".

      As an IT guy, I've never seen the need to join a union. I prefer to rely on my own skills and abilities to keep me gainfully employed, and not have anybody except the guy signing my checks telling me what to do. That plan has payed off pretty well so far. I guess these "geniuses" down in Atlanta have had a different experience. Plus, well, the Atlanta metro area population is probably made up of 60% "outsiders" now, maybe more, primarily yankees who moved south in the past 20-25 years. So these "geniuses", or more likely their parents, are used to a pro-union environment.

  4. heyrick Silver badge

    Can't believe the US is so backwards on worker's rights.

    Here, there are at least four different unions I can pick from. The moderates, the Christian moderates, the shouty extremists, and the one that nobody remembers the name of. Joining a union has certain benefits like being fired is harder, but then being fired means you really have to piss off the management, the whole pink slip thing would land them in front of a tribunal in a heartbeat. Plus there's no obligation to join and it's not legal for your employer to ask...

    Once a year we have a meeting between the company owners and the union reps. The moderate rep usually gets most of what she asks for as she is a very calm and prepared person making reasonable demands. The agitator usually doesn't get anything he asks for as he seems to treat the negotiation as an opportunity to unload on management about why they suck. It is painfully obvious in the posted minutes of the meeting who asked for what. And I actually suspect the moderate woman gets a lot of positive responses exactly because she isn't the agitator.

    Things improve, little by little. It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, they offer to offset the inflation problem. We can go on strike. I think it is allowed to have a snap ballot to down tools for up to three hours. Any more than that and there are notification periods and arbitration and such. This in a country where "taking to the roads to protest" is a national pass-time.

    But around here, this is just how it is. A union rep is a useful focal point, the company interacts with a person that represents us (one for each major union; and they're both quite willing to speak up for the non unionised as well), rather than attempting to herd kittens.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Can't believe the US is so backwards on worker's rights.

      See icon

    2. El Bard

      Mileage may vary, as there are reps who take their job seriously, reps that are one with management, reps that just take advantage of their benefits... and that goes up all the way to union heads in bed with management of the larger industries (locally large, does not have to be multinational large).

      What you mention, being able to choose a union, sounds quite nice: in my experience unions rarely compete.

      Despite all the less than ideal dynamics in the day to day, in terms of labour rights, looking at the US from Europe really is surreal.

      But due to lack of interest and committment it looks like people do not really appreaciate what they have, which is one of the fastest ways to lose it.

  5. aerogems Bronze badge
    Thumb Up

    Good for them

    I hope they succeed. And, to Apple's credit, at least so far, no reports of the usual union busting methods companies employ. Never mind the extreme methods Amazon went to, not even more subtle methods like Tesla and Starbucks have used. I hope they follow the law and just stay on the sidelines to let the chips fall where they may.

  6. Trigonoceps occipitalis

    The Register has asked Apple for comment.

    Isn't madness defined as continually doing the same thing and expecting a different result?

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: The Register has asked Apple for comment.

      El Reg, mad? Of course they are! That's why we love 'em!

    2. heyrick Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: The Register has asked Apple for comment.

      Yes, but there's comedy gold in highlighting their non-communicative nature with news sources that don't happen to believe that they shit rainbows. They would rather talk to their army of mindless sycophants rather than someone that might ask a difficult question or two. As El Reg keeps gleefully noting.

    3. Marcelo Rodrigues
      Trollface

      Re: The Register has asked Apple for comment.

      "

      Isn't madness defined as continually doing the same thing and expecting a different result?"

      Yes. But no one said El Reg expected a response. They are only asking to be shielded from prosecution.

      "Really, your honor. We DID ask Apple to comment..."

  7. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Alert

    Is there a T-shirt with the slogan...

    "The Register has asked Apple for comment. ®"

    1. cookieMonster
      Thumb Up

      Re: Is there a T-shirt with the slogan...

      There should be one

  8. DF118

    Language

    Interesting to note the contorted amelioratory tone in the CWA quotes in this report.

    Wonder if it's through choice, or a tacit acknowledgement of the enormous power imbalance that exists.

  9. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

    Indispensable ?

    An Apple Genius? I don't think so. Doctors, nurses, teachers,binmen (and women) are indispensable.

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