When news broke last month that Apple Store workers were talking union, some commentators seemed puzzled about what issues workers could have at such a seemingly hip job. I have a new piece up at Working In These Times sharing what Apple Store workers told me about what it’s really like to work there:

A Bay Area employee described what happened last year when he and about a dozen co-workers realized employees with years of service were being paid less than new hires doing the same work. Agitated about the situation but concerned about retaliation, the workers committed to a plan: during the approaching round of annual one-on-one meetings between workers and managers, they would each ask about pay disparities.

Those workers who did ask received a consistent response: “Money shouldn’t be an issue when you’re employed at Apple.” Instead, managers said, the chance to work at Apple “should be looked at as an experience.” “You can’t live off of experience,” said the worker interviewed.

That story in particular reminded me of stories I heard in college when I interviewed veterans of the Yale clerical and technical workers’ organizing drive in 1984.

Those workers also were told that they should be happy to be associated with such a cool institution, and that they should never talk to each other about money. Andrea van den Heever, a UNITE HERE organizer who was a rank and file leader in that struggle, told me then:

What we were paid was a deep dark secret and it was a very significant time in the organizing drive when we consciously and deliberately shared with each other what our pay scales were, and that was a very hard thing to do, because most people felt, because it was so secret, as if they were the only ones in the department who were being paid badly, and that that must reflect therefore the opinion that the management had of them as individuals.

Check out the rest of my Apple piece here.


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