Apple Store Staff Petition to Unionize a Third Store, This Time in St. Louis

(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. retail employees have petitioned to unionize a St. Louis store, extending a wave of labor organizing at the world’s most valuable company.

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The International Association of Machinists filed a petition Wednesday with the US National Labor Relations Board, seeking to represent around 80 employees at the Missouri site. If the agency holds an election and the union prevails, the company would be legally obligated to negotiate over working conditions at the store.

The St. Louis workers are seeking to make their store the third among Apple’s roughly 272 US locations to organize, following victories by the Machinists in Maryland in June and by another union, the Communications Workers of America, last month in Oklahoma. Employees have said that workers at dozens of stores are discussing similar moves.

“As an employee of Apple for over five years, I have unfortunately had to watch as the culture of this company has shifted from truly embodying a people-first mentality,” St. Louis employee Daniel Bertilson said in an emailed statement. “I look forward to voting yes on my ballot and allowing our team members to partner with Apple to achieve the common goal of serving our customers with warmth and kindness.”

In an emailed statement, Apple said that it’s “made many significant enhancements to our industry-leading benefits” and hiked pay in recent years.

“We believe the open, direct and collaborative relationship we have with our valued team members is the best way to provide an excellent experience for our customers, and for our teams,” the company said. “We’re proud to provide our team members with strong compensation and exceptional benefits.”

The Machinists also filed a separate claim against Apple Wednesday with the NLRB, accusing the company of violating federal law by holding mandatory anti-union meetings, threatening retaliation and telling staff that organizing would be futile.

Unions have brought separate allegations to the agency about Apple’s conduct in Oklahoma, Maryland and Atlanta, which the agency has been investigating. In September, the NLRB general counsel issued a complaint accusing Apple of interrogating employees at a World Trade Center store about their workplace activism and discriminating against union supporters in enforcing a no-soliciting policy.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, has said that it disagrees with the allegations.

(Updates with Apple comment in fifth paragraph.)

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