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Apple Store Workers in Kentucky Announce Organizing Campaign

May 25, 2022, 10:00 AM

Workers at an Apple store in Louisville, Ky., are forming a union—and may even have enough support to win an election, according to the group’s leader.

The store, located at the Oxmoor Center mall, is the fourth US location to publicly announce a union drive. In an exclusive interview with Bloomberg Law, Jay Hedgspeth, the 20-year-old retail specialist behind the effort, said workers are motivated to unionize by pandemic burnout, low pay relative to Apple’s profits, and an increasingly metrics-driven culture that has left employees feeling disconnected from their work.

“Everything that happens in an Apple Store is metrics driven these days. It’s all about how many people can you connect with, how many people can you get Apple Care paired with their transactions,” Hedgspeth said in an interview. “Everything is geared toward getting those numbers as high as possible.”

Similar concerns have been echoed by workers at an Atlanta Apple store set to hold the first union vote next month, as well as workers at a Towson, Md., store who have filed for an election. Another store in New York announced plans to unionize, but hasn’t submitted an election petition.

About 30% of eligible workers at the Oxmoor Center mall store have said they’re in favor of forming a union—the legal threshold to hold a union election—though the group is waiting until it has support from 70% or more before petitioning for a vote, Hedgspeth said.

Apple spokesman Josh Lipton declined to comment on the Louisville store, but referenced an earlier statement touting “very strong compensation and other benefits for full-time and part-time employees, including health care, tuition reimbursement, new parental leave, paid family leave, annual stock grants and many other benefits.”

Early Stages

At least three unions—the Communications Workers of America, Workers United, and the International Association of Machinists—have sought to organize separate stores.

The Atlanta workers, affiliated with CWA, will begin voting June 2. The IAM-backed Maryland workers will begin voting June 15.

Hedgspeth said the Louisville workers haven’t aligned with a particular union.

“Right now, we’re still at that very, very early preliminary stage of just have those initial conversations and kind of softly gauging, OK, who can we get involved in this?” he said. “I’d say once we start getting to 40, 50—general majority numbers—we start that process of reaching out.”

Online forums on non-Apple platforms have become a hotbed for union discussion among Apple store workers nationwide, according to Hedgspeth and another worker active on the forums. While workers often don’t reveal which store they work for, there’s representation from every major US sales market, Hedgspeth said.

In many cases, he said, the long-term employees are the most gung-ho.

Apple had $94 billion in profits during fiscal 2021, an increase of 65% from the previous fiscal year. Some Apple workers believe the company hasn’t passed along profits to its workers, who start at $20 an hour. While the workers acknowledge it’s better than many retail jobs, they say it’s still not enough to keep up with the rising cost of living.

Housing prices in Louisville jumped 15% over the last year, according to the real estate website Redfin.

“For one of the largest companies in the world with the highest profit ratios in the world, the worker experience often does not reflect that,” Hedgspeth said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ian Kullgren in Washington at ikullgren@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Genevieve Douglas at gdouglas@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com