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Glasgow staff form UK's first Apple union after historic vote

Hey, Glaswegians, care to share those negotiating secrets with your counterparts in the US?

After months of wrangling, Glaswegian Apple Store employees have signed a deal with their Cupertino parent to officially recognize the first Apple trade union in the UK. 

Per Scottish newspaper The Herald, employees at the Buchanan Street Apple Store took steps to begin unionizing last year, but it took several months of negotiations between employees and Apple to reach the stage where a ballot vote was possible. The vote, which succeeded, took place in November and the Glasgow Apple Store union, which just signed a formal agreement with Apple making its recognition legitimate under UK law, avoided the statutory route to recognition through its negotiations with Apple, the paper said.

Now that it's been voted on, passed, and recognized by the iMaker, employees at the Buchanan Street Apple Store are cleared to bargain with the UK's GMB trade union, with whom the group organized. 

"This agreement is historic and our members in the Glasgow store are a beacon of hope across the world to show that you can organize to make work better. We look to build a good relationship with Apple while being passionate advocates for members' interests," said GMB organizer John Slaven. 

Meanwhile, across the pond

According to The Herald, Apple recognizes unions across Europe, but in the US things have been decidedly less friendly between Cupertino and the folks it employs to peddle its products. 

The first Apple retail store to unionize in the US held a vote in June of last year, which passed, after Apple declined to recognize the union voluntarily. Since then, employees at the Maryland store have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that Apple illegally withheld new employee perks from employees at that location. 

Apple finally began recognizing the store's union through collective bargaining in January. 

Elsewhere in the US, Apple employees in Oklahoma organized their own union, and employees in New York and Atlanta, Georgia have tried to do the same. Apple has been accused of trying to suppress organization in both of those locations by the NLRB. Employees in both Atlanta and a separate store in Missouri withdrew organization requests, citing hostility from Apple management.

Apple has also been accused of organizing a decoy labor group in Columbus, Ohio to disrupt union organizing activity there.

As in the UK, employees at US Apple Stores have pushed for unionization as a way to squeeze better pay and more benefits out of one of the world's wealthiest companies. 

Apple hasn't responded to questions from The Register about why it's decided to recognize the Glasgow union voluntarily, but not those in the US. Apple did tell The Herald, however, that it has had a long-time commitment to providing "excellent experiences" for customers and employees.

"Apple is one of the highest paying retailers in Scotland and we've regularly made enhancements to our industry-leading benefits as a part of the overall support we provide to our valued team members."

Per The Herald, Apple staff at the Glasgow store are paid £12 an hour, or around $14.50. Last year, Apple committed to raising the minimum wage for its US retail employees to $22, or around £18. ®

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