Originally Posted by dsmos
I work for Apple Retail, and have for three and a half years. In that time, I've worked in multiple stores, for multiple managers, with hundreds of different co-workers, and I've held several positions within the store. After reading all of these comments, I couldn't help but join in.
First of all, let's get one thing straight: on this planet, there are billions of people who live on less than two dollars a day, so by comparison Apple Retail isn't really all that bad. Nobody has to do anything dangerous, shifts are a standard workday's length, the environment is clean and well kept, and at the end of the day everyone who works for Apple Retail gets to go home with a lot more in their pockets than 90% of the world's population. Which is not bad.
Secondly, there will never be a union of Apple employees, and I think anyone currently working at Apple would agree. Apple has billions of dollars in cash and it's pretty evident they're willing to spend it to get what they want. Like a multi-store glass cube on one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in Manhattan, complete with a spiral glass staircase. Or a mine in Italy so they don't have to settle for sub-par tiles for the flooring in their stores. And I can't imagine anyone with an office on the upper floors of One Infinite Loop being comfortable with the idea of a union controlling what they can and cannot do with their retail stores. One thing you learn very quickly at Apple is that Apple likes control. And that's exactly why the employees who are trying to unionize are doing it.
In all of the time I've spent at Apple, there has been a clear and consistent message relayed by the company has been that the needs of Apple are always, and will always, be more important than your own. Anything you want from Apple will only be given to you so long as it fits the needs of the business. If it doesn't, no matter how reasonable it might be, you can forget it. It took Apple several years and a couple of lawsuits to put anti-fatigue mats behind the Genius Bar. Their reasoning for not doing so? It would ruin the aesthetics of the floor. That should tell you something.
It's a shame, really, because ten years ago when Apple Retail was born, things were very different. They hired the best people they could find, and paid them handsomely. Work/life balance was encouraged, there were profit sharing measures in place (in the form of bonuses based upon sales performance), and the attrition rate was incredibly low. For a while, things were good. Then the iPod came along, and all of a sudden there were more and more people coming in every day. Then the iPhone happened, and the Apple Store became the shopping destination of the oughts. People formed massive lines around the block just to get in the doors when a new one opened up, and Apple couldn't build them fast enough. In the span of ten years, they built more than 300 of them worldwide, with many in prominent locations, and every single one was outfitted with row after row of hand made solid maple tables and $700 chairs for the children's tables. Clearly the investment was worth the risk - last year the retail stores took in more than $2 billion in profits. But even with revenues like that, employee's wages went lower, and lower, and lower. And since the stores were growing at such a rapid pace, and they needed leadership, Apple began hiring managers from the clothing retailers, who brought with them the bad habits and practices of that industry. The Apple culture at the Apple Store became weaker, and weaker, and today there's little difference between working at an Apple Store and working at the Gap. Except that at least at the Gap, you might be able become a manager. To do that at Apple, you'd need to quit and become a manager somewhere else first.
You could make the argument that the people who have chosen to work at the Apple Store knew what they were getting into, and for the most part you're right. Nobody's being coerced, or forced to work against their will. But that doesn't mean they don't deserve a better deal than they're getting. While many of the people who work at Apple Stores are students, who may not need the extra income, there are also quite a few adults working there, and they have adult financial responsibilities just like everyone else. And each and every one of them works hard to try to make sure that everyone who leaves the store that day is happy. Many come to meetings on their days off to strategize about ways to help people more quickly, or convey information more efficiently. All of them are up early in the morning on the day of a product launch, working twelve, fourteen, or sixteen hour days to make sure that as many people as possible are able to buy the latest Apple product, and get their questions answered. They work on holidays, miss family gatherings, all in the name of keeping the lights on and the doors open so that you can swing by the Apple store on your way home from work, or early in the morning before it gets crowded. And how does Apple reward them? With race-to-the-bottom wages, a 3% annual raise cap, and no commission whatsoever. And please, save the "you get paid what you're worth" argument, because no degree, and no resume has ever or will ever amount to an employee's worth, and if you believe in a system where those are the only qualifications for earning more money then clearly you don't get it. Just go read Atlas Shrugged again, you'll be happier.
So maybe unionization isn't the answer, but let's have some sympathy for the people who want to put one together. They're in a bad situation, and facing a frightening economy where quitting simply isn't an option, and all they're really trying to do is ask for some improvements from a company with $60 billion in liquid assets. If you can't at least empathize with that, then you're exactly the reason America's wealth distribution is getting worse and worse every year.