President Joe Biden had some words of encouragement Monday for Apple Store workers who just formed the company’s first retail union.
“I’m proud of them,” the president said, according to the White House pool report. “Workers have a right to determine under what conditions they’re gonna work or not. And I think the thing that everybody kind of misunderstands about unions, they tend to be, especially in the trades, the best workers in the world.”
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers easily won an election at the company’s Towson Center store outside Baltimore last week, where workers voted 65-33 in favor of joining the union, according to a vote count held Saturday by the National Labor Relations Board. Apple has a week to file any challenges to the election.
The election results at Apple follow similar groundbreaking victories for the labor movement at Starbucks, Amazon and REI in recent months. The string of high-profile wins has union leaders and supporters hoping for a turnaround, with union membership now at a low of just 6.1% in the private sector.
Biden has used the bully pulpit to promote unionism, and in a speech last week at the convention of the AFL-CIO labor federation, Biden reaffirmed his vow to be “the most pro-union president” ever. “I promised you I would be, and I commit to you: As long I have this job, I will remain that,” he said.
Biden has indeed shown a level of public union support that few, if any, of his predecessors have. In a speech last year, he blasted companies that try to interfere in union elections, just as Amazon was holding captive-audience meetings to dissuade workers form unionizing. And after workers won a union election at a warehouse in New York earlier this year, Biden said, “Amazon, here we come.”
“Workers have a right to determine under what conditions they’re gonna work or not.”
– Joe Biden
In the case of Apple, organizing campaigns are already brewing at other retail locations in New York and Atlanta, and the decisive vote in Maryland could encourage workers at other locations to petition the labor board to hold votes.
Employees at the Towson store sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook last month saying they had “come together as a union because of a deep love of our role as workers within the company and out of care for the company itself.” Apple opposed the organizing effort, and store managers had encouraged workers to vote against the union.