Apple Store workers in Maryland on Saturday became the first group of employees in the retail giant’s 46-year history to win the right to union representation.
The union victory, with 65 in favor of a union and 33 opposing one, comes as workers across tech and retail sectors ramp up petitions for labor representation. The victories threaten decades-old business models that have allowed many large corporations in the U.S. to operate without concerns over collective bargaining.
Ballots from Apple’s (AAPL) Towson Town Center tallied on Saturday evening at the end of a four-day vote resulted in votes overwhelmingly in favor of joining the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, according to a union representative.
The workers originally organized into a group called the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE), though they petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to join the larger, established International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers trade union.
“I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory,” IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. said in an email to Yahoo Finance. “I ask Apple CEO Tim Cook to respect the election results and fast-track a first contract for the dedicated IAM CORE Apple employees in Towson. This victory shows the growing demand for unions at Apple stores and different industries across our nation.”
Apple did not respond to Yahoo Finance’s request for comment on the vote.
Last month, Apple workers in Atlanta’s Cumberland Mall represented by Communications Workers of America (CWA) withdrew a petition to hold a scheduled labor election. And retail store employees in the company’s Grand Central location in New York are reportedly working to gain enough support to hold an election.
‘There’s a revolution coming’
The victory follows other high-profile wins for unions working for big-name retailers. In April, Amazon (AMZN) warehouse employees in Staten Island, New York became that company’s first group of U.S. workers to win a union election. Amazon is challenging the election results.
And since December, Starbucks (SBUX) baristas from more than 150 U.S. stores, represented by Starbucks Workers United, have successfully unionized their retail locations.
In a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook prior to this week’s election, Towson store workers said their decision to form a labor union was aimed at “gaining access to rights that we do not currently have.”
In a video further explaining their concerns, pro-union employees from the store who interviewed with pro-union organization More Perfect Union said its average employee compensation wouldn’t be enough to pay for a one-bedroom apartment in the Baltimore metro area where the store is located. The workers also criticized the company for boosting Cook’s compensation 569% last year to $98.7 million, and discussed challenges associated with handling the emotions and demands of retail customers.
In recent months, Apple increased starting retail store employee pay from $20 per hour to $22 per hour. According to the Towson employees, the $22 hour wage remains insufficient to qualify for and afford basic local housing.
“There’s a revolution coming. And it’s going to be one retail store at a time,” Towson store worker Kevin Gallagher said in the video.
Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.
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