Apple’s retail workers have begun to unionize in the United States to get leverage over pay, hours and benefits. Apple is too large, financially, to be damaged by the move, at least if it remains contained to a modest number of locations. However, labor has started to organize against Apple in Australia aggressively. What once appeared to be a problem in its home market could spread to many countries.
Apple has stores in 25 countries. It employs thousands of workers across these locations. The spirit behind the decision by Australian Apple workers traces its way back to America. According to Vice, “Workers at Apple in Australia feel particularly inspired, he said, because they face many of the same union-busting tactics faced by workers in the U.S.”
More important than the strikes themselves is the possible negative public reaction. Apple has the most valuable brand in the world. It relies on tremendous goodwill with consumers for much of the success that has made it the most valuable U.S. company based on market cap and one of the largest companies in the world based on revenue.
Consumers know Apple is immensely profitable and might ask why it will not improve the fortunes of hourly workers. The optics are not helped by the fact that CEO Tim Cook has made hundreds of millions of dollars since he has been at the helm.
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The unionization effort is part of a global problem that large, highly successful companies founded in the past several decades face. The most obvious are Amazon and Starbucks. In each case, hourly workers want better pay and benefits. The companies that employ them make billions of dollars annually and have highly paid management and billionaire founders.
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Labor’s attempt to influence its fate at large companies is not new. In the United States, it extends back more than a century. Legacy businesses are not exempt from labor pressure. Railroads recently had to hike pay and benefits after worries about a strike brought the U.S. president into the dispute.
Apple can count on the fact that the unionization of its locations has only started.
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