(CNN) — Apple workers in Oklahoma City are set to vote this week on whether to form the second-ever labor union at one of the tech giant’s US stores.
The Apple store workers in Oklahoma are seeking to gain representation with the Communication Workers of America union. Voting is set to take place on Thursday and Friday, with the vote-tally scheduled for Friday evening. Just under 100 employees at the Apple store in the Penn Square Mall are eligible to vote in this union election.
Earlier this year, Apple store workers at a mall in Towson, Maryland, made history when they voted to become the first unionized Apple store in the United States. The move was lauded by President Joe Biden, among others. In late June, the National Labor Relations Board officially certified the union election win, paving the way for the workers and Apple management to negotiate their first contract.
The organizing efforts at Apple stores come amid the backdrop of a tidal wave of workplace activism emerging at major companies from Amazon to Starbucks after the pandemic exposed new pressures on frontline workers and a tight labor market gave these workers new leverage.
Leigha Briscoe, a worker at the Oklahoma Apple store, said that their group was inspired to organize after “seeing what was happening in the labor movement across the United States with other large corporations.”
“Particularly watching Amazon and Starbucks has been the two that really stuck out to me,” she said. “That really kind of brought to light the possibility of us being able to do that in our store.”
Watching these other workers seize new power via organizing also helped in “shifting my view of what a labor union was, and seeing that, ‘Hey, this is something that can still be done in the modern workforce,'” Briscoe added. “That’s really what kind of helped me see that this was going to be valuable for our team, and I think it’s safe to say that a lot of our other team members were also watching that happen as well, and that kind of inspired them in the same way as it has me.”
“Fundamentally, what we’re looking for is being able to have a seat at the table and negotiate what our experience looks like,” she said.
An Apple spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the Oklahoma City vote. Ahead of the union election at the Maryland store earlier this year, Apple said in a statement that it deeply values its retail team members and emphasized that it offers a “very strong compensation and benefits for full time and part time employees.”
One of the worker organizers at the Maryland location previously told CNN that “compensation is important” but “the most important” goal was “having a say” in store policies that impact staff.
Patrick Hart, another worker at the Oklahoma City Apple store, echoed that sentiment. Hart said he was tired of hearing from his managers that “that’s just how it is” when he raised concerns or brought feedback to them about their workplace experiences. He said they are seeking more of a voice in their workplace with their unionization efforts.
Hart also emphasized that he was inspired by the resurgence of the organized labor movement, and especially efforts to unionize Amazon warehouses. The new labor push comes as union membership overall in the United States has plummeted in recent decades. The unionization rate for all wage and salary workers in the United States last year was some 10.3%, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data indicates, compared to 20.1% in 1983, which was the first year comparable data was available.
After taking inspiration from others, Hart said he hopes that their efforts in Oklahoma can similarly embolden fellow workers to band together — no matter what industry they may be in.
“I want everyone to realize unions aren’t just for those bad and hard workplaces, it is for everyone in America, we have the right to unionize,” Hart said. “I just want people to realize that, because it can do a lot of good for a lot of people who feel they’re stuck in their workplace.”
Hart continued: “They don’t have to leave their job, they can just make their current one a better place.”
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