In this weekend’s news and commentary, Apple workers in Maryland became the first retail employees at the tech company to unionize; the Mexican Workers’ League submitted a USMCA Rapid Response petition against VU manufacturing due to the company’s unlawful efforts to impose a company-friendly union; and thousands of labor unionists and activists gathered in Chicago for the biggest Labor Notes conference ever.

On June 18, Apple retail workers at a store in Towson, Maryland voted 65-33 to unionize with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). Organizing at the Towson store was done by a group called the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE). This was the third store to launch a unionization drive this year, but the first to successfully hold a vote. The other two stores in Atlanta and New York have faced fierce anti-union activity from the company. The Communication Workers of America (CWA) filed an unfair labor practice charge against Apple for multiple federal labor law violations, including interrogating staff, surveilling workers, restricting the posting of union fliers, and requiring employees to listen to anti-union propaganda during mandatory “daily download” meetings. Apple has hired anti-union lawyers from Littler Mendelson, and an internal memo leaked in May revealed that the company has been sending anti-union talking points to store managers. Kevin’s previous coverage of unionization drives at Apple can be found here.

On June 17, members of the Mexican Workers’ League (the “Liga”), submitted a Rapid Response labor petition under the USMCA against VU Manufacturing alleging unlawful efforts to impose a company union on workers at its auto parts plant in Piedras Negras, Coahuila. In a statement, the union said that VU invited the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), a company friendly protection union, to become the factory workers’ union representative without their consent, a “common” practice in Mexico to intimidate workers and undermine organizing. A worker who objected to CTM’s presence was fired, they said. The USMCA’s Facility-Specific Rapid Response Labor Mechanism provides for expedited enforcement of workers’ free association and collective bargaining rights at the facility level. The mechanism was employed by US officials in connection with a union-related election last year at a General Motors plant in Silao, Mexico, and US Trade Rep. Katherine Tai asked Mexican authorities earlier this month to review whether workers at a Stellantis facility are being denied their labor rights. “We continue to use the USMCA’s Rapid Response Labor Mechanism to defend workers’ rights and remain committed to working closely with the Mexican government to do so,” said Tai.

On June 17, the 2022 Labor Notes Conference kicked off in Chicago, uniting over 4,000 workers, unionists, activists, and scholars for over 100 meetings and workshops on creative organizing tactics, beating apathy, running for local union office, winning contract campaigns, and reviving the strike. Senator Bernie Sanders opened Friday’s main session alongside high-profile figures in the labor movement including Stacy Gates, president-elect of the Chicago Teachers Union; Chris Smalls, the president of the Amazon Labor Union; and Sean O’Brien, president of Teamsters. The full conference lineup can be found here.