The unionized Apple workers at the Towson, Maryland store, which became the first Apple retail store to unionize, are advocating for a contract that incorporates the implementation of a tipping system. The effort could be argued to stem from the recent shift in priorities for Apple, which resulted in mass layoffs, and unionized Apple workers being more concerned with their rights.
Around 100 workers at an Apple Store in the Towson Town Center mall, just north of Baltimore, Maryland, have successfully unionized with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. They were the first Apple retail employees to do so despite the company’s anti-union efforts elsewhere. Since January, the employees have been in contract negotiations with Apple, seeking to establish new workplace protections and benefits for themselves.
Proposed changes by the unionized Apple workers
The unionized Apple workers have proposed numerous changes to their working conditions, including wage increases up to 10%, more paid holidays, higher overtime pay, two weeks of severance per year employed, extended bereavement leave, more paid time off depending on the employee’s number of years working at the store, and other policy adjustments.
Apple has tentatively agreed to some improvements, including improving the process for fixing flawed paychecks, updating its nondiscrimination policy, creating a new health and safety committee, and committing to rehiring employees laid off from other store locations.
In their most recent contract proposal, the workers have also asked to introduce tipping as an option for customers during transactions. The proposal has been met with mixed reactions, as tipping is uncommon in U.S. retail stores.
However, the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE), as the union is named, notes that customers regularly try to tip already without any recourse to do so. The unionized Apple workers are requesting customers to be able to tip 3%, 5%, or a custom amount at checkout with credit card transactions.
All tips would be pooled and split among workers according to hours worked. CORE has described potential tips as a method of “profit-sharing” and proposes that this system will allow occasional customers the ability to reward their team for their hard work. CORE’s Twitter account acknowledges the proposal is likely to be “a little controversial.” However, the union says there is currently no other mechanism that would allow customers to directly thank or contribute to the team that provided them with exceptional service.
Apple workers walk the line somewhere between service and retail. While Genius Bar employees offer extensive assistance and instruction to customers through one-on-one appointments, the interaction between workers and customers far exceeds a minute of being wrung up at a register. That doesn’t necessarily mean tipping is the best solution for employees, but it’s easy to see where the idea comes from.
CORE recognizes that this is a negotiation, and their goal is to bring back an acceptable contract for the membership to ratify. The early stages of any negotiation are for aiming high, and CORE probably knows it’s not going to get everything its members ask for. Concessions and compromises come later.
The contract negotiations between the unionized Apple workers of the Towson Town Center Mall Apple Store and the tech giant are ongoing, and both parties are aiming to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. The introduction of tipping as an option for customers during transactions is just one of many proposed changes that could improve working conditions and offer workers additional benefits. The outcome of the negotiations could have implications for other Apple retail stores and retail workers more broadly.
Nevertheless, Apple Retail Union claims that the company is illegally laying off activist workers and trying to silence the effort to unionize. With that in mind, these negotiations are actually even more important than they even seem.