Apple’s Unionized Store Workers Seek Higher Pay and More Time Off
Workspan Daily
May 05, 2023

As reported by Bloomberg News, employees at Apple Inc.’s unionized store in Maryland are asking for higher pay and additional time off, along with changes that could affect the company’s tightly controlled retail experience, such as letting customers tip employees.  

The employees, represented by the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, conducted negotiations with Apple on Wednesday and Thursday. Their latest proposal calls for raises of as much as 10%, as well as major changes to the outlet’s vacation policy, bereavement leave and overtime. 

The store in Towson was the first Apple retail location in the U.S. to unionize. Employees at a location in Oklahoma City agreed to unionize, though negotiations with Apple haven’t begun, and efforts in Atlanta and St. Louis were canceled, Bloomberg reported.  

In addition to an overall raise, representatives from the store are asking Apple for higher compensation over a larger slate of holidays, including the day after Thanksgiving. The union is also seeking to expand vacation pay and available time off based on years of service. And it wants to extend paid bereavement leave from 10 days per occurrence to a maximum of 45 days a year and for the policy to include pets and close friends. 

“We realize that this is a negotiation, and these are initial proposals,” the union said in a statement. “Our goal is and always has been to bring back an acceptable contract for the membership to ratify.” 

The union representatives also would like Apple to adopt a tipping system, letting patrons offer gratuities in increments of 3%, 5% or a custom amount for in-store credit-card transactions. 

“This will allow thankful patrons the ability to express gratitude for a job well done without any obligations,” the union wrote Apple. “All monies collected through this manner would be dispersed to members of the bargaining unit biweekly based on any hours worked.” 

The union is seeking to double pay for staffers who work more than eight hours per day or 40 hours per week. They’re asking for an additional boost for employees who work overtime on weekends, Bloomberg reported.  

Over the past year, Apple has been engaged in a widespread effort to keep its stores from unionizing. Last month, the company held meetings with U.S. retail employees to update them on negotiations with Towson, with the underlying message that if their store unionizes, they may be at a disadvantage.  

Apple has also highlighted allegations that union representatives misled employees at the St. Louis store that stopped its efforts. 

U.S. Economy Adds 253,000 Jobs in April 

Despite continued news of layoffs and turmoil in the banking sector, the U.S. economy performed better than expected in April, adding 253,000 jobs for the month, according to the Department of Labor’s jobs report.  

Economists had expected job gains of 180,000, according to CNBC. The unemployment rate was 3.4%, which tied for the lowest level since 1969. A more encompassing number that includes discouraged workers and those holding part-time jobs for economic reasons edged lower to 6.6%.  

Average hourly earnings rose 0.5% for the month, more than the 0.3% estimate and the biggest monthly gain in a year. Wages increased 4.4% year-over-year.  

“It is encouraging to see a strong jobs report amid recession concerns, instability in the banking sector and ongoing layoffs,” Steve Rick, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group, told CNBC. “We are hopeful the continued strength of the jobs market and signs of slowing inflation will ease market volatility in the coming months.” 

Professional and business services led the job gains with an increase of 43,000. That was followed by health care (40,000), leisure and hospitality (31,000), and social assistance (25,000). 

Despite serious banking industry troubles, jobs in finance increased by 23,000. Government hiring rose by 23,000. 

“The best you can say from today’s report is that job growth is slowing when looking at the average over the past few months,” Matt Peron, director of research at Janus Henderson Investors, told CNBC. “However, wages were stubbornly high and that’s a key aspect of the report for the Fed and markets. Our concern is that policy rates will have to remain high which could pressure earnings and equity multiples.” 

Hollywood Screenwriters Strike Over AI and Streaming Concerns  

As reported by CBS News, more than 11,000 film and TV writers began an organized strike earlier this week for the first time in 15 years.  

Chief among the concerns of the screenwriters is the explosion of streaming services, which have already transformed the entertainment business in ways that can undermine their income, and the advent of artificial intelligence, whcih threatens to take an even bigger bite out of their livelihood.  

The Writers Guild of America (WGA), the union spearheading the protest, wants to put strict guardrails around how studios use “generative” text and image tools like ChatGPT and Dall-E.  

With many studios looking to cut costs, trimming writers’ pay could substantially reduce the cost of script production, which is the starting point for any film or TV series. Thus, the WGA is calling for what amounts to a near total ban on the use of AI to produce or even contribute to written entertainment content.  

“For some reason people forget that there is no story, there is nothing to shoot without us,” WGA member and TV writer Charia Rose said in a video on the WGA’s website.  

Specifically, CBS News reported, the union wants its collective bargaining contract to guarantee that:  

  • AI won’t write or rewrite literary material.  
  • AI won’t be used as source material.  
  • Union-covered material won’t be used to train AI.  

Mark Harris, author of multiple books on American film history and husband of acclaimed playwright and WGA member Tony Kushner, told CBS News that it’s reasonable for screenwriters to fear that studios might one day outsource some of their work to machines.  

“If the idea of replacing you with a computer program is not off the table, it indicates such a fundamental lack of respect,” Harris said. "It indicates that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what writing is and what writers do and what the role of non-duplicatable human imagination is in creating scripted work.” 

Anheuser-Busch Compensates Frontline Workers Amid Slowdown  

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the maker of Bud Light said it would triple its planned U.S. marketing spending on the brand this summer and is providing financial support to frontline teams and wholesalers who have taken the brunt of the backlash to a company promotion with a transgender influencer.  

The controversy began when Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender social-media star, spoke in an Instagram video about a personalized can of Bud Light that the brewer had sent her as a gift. The April 1 post sparked a boycott that has since caused Bud Light sales to fall sharply.  

“The situation impacts really the frontline workers more than anybody else,” Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Michel Doukeris said during an interview Thursday. “Think about the truck drivers, the delivery people, the sales reps, merchandisers. Those are people that are the fabric of our business …They are family and neighbors.” 

Doukeris said the company will continue its support of LGBTQ rights organizations.  

Bud Light’s delivery drivers, sales representatives and independent distributors have been confronted by angry people on the streets, in bars and in stores, the Journal reported. The brewer is paying a $500 bonus to each of those workers, Doukeris said.  

For the week ended April 22, Bud Light’s U.S. retail-store sales fell roughly 21% compared with a year earlier, according to an analysis of Nielsen data by Bump Williams Consulting. Meanwhile, sales of rival brands Coors Light and Miller Lite each rose about 21%.  

Alissa Heinerscheid, the Anheuser-Busch executive who oversaw Bud Light marketing, was placed on leave April 21 and the brewer named a successor to her in the role of vice president for Bud Light. The company also placed on leave her boss, Daniel Blake, who oversaw marketing for Budweiser, Bud Light and other mainstream brands. 

“We remain committed to the programs and partnerships that we have forged across decades,” Doukeris said, including military veterans groups, LGBT rights groups and organizations that support Black and Hispanic communities. 

He said the company’s brand marketing should focus on sports, music and connecting people. 

“We promote the beer business and we market beer and those to me are different things,” he said. “In our business, we work to promote the beer industry while we support our people. We support human rights.” 

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