May 19, 2011, 5:44 PM — Oh, to be in a room with Steve Jobs when he first heard of this.
Some Apple workers in the Pacific Northwest, citing "unfair treatment" among other things, are pushing for employees of Apple's retail outlets to form a union.
From Macworld's Lex Friedman:
An organization calling itself the Apple Retail Workers Union sent a message to various members of the Apple press on Thursday, including Macworld, announcing plans to try to unionize Apple Store employees.
In the message, the ARWU said, "We are launching today to get fellow employees, shoppers, and the world know that we work in one of the most demanding retail environments while suffering through unfair treatment and compensation among many other various issues... We deserve better. Our time has come."
I'm pretty sure they meant "let fellow employees," not "get fellow employees," though that could have been a Macworld typo (online copy editors no longer exist, in case you're wondering).
The ARWU's website, which appears to have gone live Thursday, offers almost no specifics, though it does include a claim that many Apple fanboys would question (“At Apple, our most important resource, our soul, is our people.”) and a statement that should be stunningly obvious ("This site is not endorsed or supported by Apple in any way.").
Macworld did ask for details of the group's grievances and was told via email that "core issues included break schedules, training opportunities, the selection and hiring process for internal candidates for open positions, and wages."
Either the group is reaching out way prematurely to the media or this a very timid unionizing initiative because there just aren't enough facts to discuss here. Forming a union requires a lot more details, not to mention invective and brimstone. It's almost as if the ARWU is afraid of angering Jobs, who probably won't even bother trying to find out who's behind this so he can fire them in true union-busting fashion. (Should this effort gets some traction, well, that might be a different story.)
It's certainly not an optimum time for unionizing. The economy is stalling, and the percentage of private-industry, non-farm workers belonging to unions was slightly less than 7 percent in 2010 (versus 34 percent in the late 1940s), according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. And, of course, unions have been demonized ever since the Reagan Administration.
Still, I'm a big believer in the rights of workers to attempt to form unions, so good luck to the folks behind the ARWU. They're going to need it.