Apple store in Maryland becomes first in U.S. to unionize, NLRB opposes Starbucks anti-union efforts

Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Keenan joins the Live show to discuss Apple’s unionization vote as well as Starbucks’s anti-unionization efforts.

Video Transcript

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JULIE HYMAN: The clock is ticking for. Apple earlier this week, the company said store workers in Towson, Maryland voted to form the first-ever labor union at one of its Maryland stores. That is in Towson. The company has until tomorrow to challenge the vote.

Alexis Keenan is here to talk about the likelihood that Apple will object. I mean, all the other companies where we've seen unionization have objected. So I'm guessing it's yes.

ALEXIS KEENAN: Right. So I mean, TBD. Apple has until 11:59 PM tomorrow on Friday to file an objection if they are going to do it. This would be an objection to the vote and to the election that took place in Towson. It's the first Apple Store in the country to say from its workers that they do want to unionize. That's a long road ahead for them, nonetheless.

But Apple so far staying quiet, not saying whether it will or it will not file such an objection. And that objection could take a number of forms. They could say, for various reasons, that it should be invalidated. So we'll have to wait to see what happens tomorrow.

The vote came down to 65 yeses, 35 noes against unionization. And I've been asking labor law gurus how to handicap this. What's Apple going to do? So there's a strong contingency building of folks who think that Apple should lie low, that they should not object, and particularly because the environment has changed so much after COVID. Well, I shouldn't say after COVID-19. We're still living with it. But in a post-COVID economy, that there's been such a huge labor push across retail, across big tech for unionization.

And they say, look, that Apple should mind that. They should heed that warning. And that it could be some public backlash if the company pushes back too hard. They say, look Apple workers, like many retail workers, were essentially front-line workers during the pandemic. And they have some valid concerns that were, at times, life-and-death concerns.

On the other hand, you have labor shortages. And Apple has to be mindful of being able to retain enough talent at its stores, particularly as people that interface directly with consumers. But look, the law is still on the side of the corporation. And you have the other camp saying, they can't imagine Apple not pushing back, just as Amazon has, just as Starbucks has.

BRAD SMITH: And Alexis, the National Labor Relations Board, they've filed a petition against Starbucks, we know, alleging it's engaging in its legal union-busting campaign. So how does the company kind of respond to something like that? And how will this impact their ongoing union battle as well?

ALEXIS KEENAN: Yes. So we can see part of how a company, a big company like this is responding. Starbucks has said in a statement, we believe these claims are false and will be prepared to defend our case. The company also notes that in Arizona, a similar challenge-- this is one of three challenges that the National Labor Relations Board has brought against Starbucks for allegedly illegal union-busting tactics.

They say that they want to recognize that in Arizona, a federal court did, in fact, say that the NLRB did not come with enough facts to prove its case. And so they had a win there. But look, this is the third petition that the NLRB is filing. They have a litany of claims, saying that the company is acting illegally with respect to how union elections and votes and organization should operate.

They cite things like offering benefits to employees who are non-union potential voters and trying to entice them with special benefits. They talk about threats against pro-union workers. They also want the company to change and about face and start bargaining with those stores that have voted to unionize. There are over 150 Starbucks locations that have voted yes.

But look, it's a really long road. These challenges are tough the law is in favor of the companies. But they want an injunction here to say, Starbucks, you've got to start coming to the negotiating table.