President Joe Biden on Monday had some words of encouragement for Apple Store workers who had just formed the company’s first retail union.
“I’m proud of her,” the president said, according to the White House pool report. “Workers have the right to choose the conditions under which they work or not. And I think what everyone misunderstands about unions is that they tend to be the best workers in the world, especially in the trades.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers easily won an election at the company’s shop at the Towson Center outside Baltimore last week, with workers voting 65-33 to join the union, according to a National Labor Relations Board vote on Saturday. Apple has one week to file election challenges.
Apple’s election results follow similar landmark labor movement victories at Starbucks, Amazon and REI in recent months. The string of high-profile victories gives union leaders and supporters hope for a turnaround, with union membership now at low levels 6.1% in the private sector.
Biden has used the bullying pulpit to promote unions, and in a speech last week at the AFL-CIO convention, Biden reiterated his vow to be “the most unionist president” ever. “I promised you, and I promise you, as long as I have this job, I will keep it,” he said.
Indeed, Biden has shown a level of public union support that few, if any, of his predecessors have had. In a speech last year, he attacked companies trying to interfere in union elections, just as Amazon was holding rallies to discourage workers from 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 the right to choose the conditions under which they work or not.”
– Joe Biden
In Apple’s case, organizing campaigns are already brewing at other retail locations in New York and Atlanta, and the crucial vote in Maryland could encourage workers in other locations to apply to the unemployment office to vote.
Employees at the Towson store sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook last month, saying they “came together as a union out of a deep love for our role as workers within the company and concern for the company itself.” Apple resisted the organizing effort, and store managers had encouraged workers to do so vote against the union.