Why it matters: Apple store employees made headlines last year after successfully unionizing at the company's Towson, Maryland location. The Apple Coalition of Retail Employees (AppleCORE) was established to ensure that Apple management teams acknowledge employee rights by including them in negotiations on issues such as pay, scheduling, and professional development. According to a recently reported proposal, employees are now looking for tips for their time spent providing customer service.

AppleCORE will be negotiating their proposed requests with the company's labor representatives later this week. The new proposal, as previously reported by Bloomberg, includes several requests to address employee compensation and leave issues. One of those requests, however, has started raising eyebrows ever since it was announced.

In an effort to address employee concerns about profit sharing and bonus structures, the group has requested the addition of an optional tipping system on in-store credit card purchases. The system would allow (and some would argue even encourage) Apple store customers to include tips in increments of 3%, 5%, or any other custom amount they see fit based on the service received.

Upon being questioned about the decision, AppleCORE's representatives said they "...thought adopting a model already used by other workers who provide services to their community might be the simplest to implement." The tips would be distributed to bargaining unit employees on a bi-weekly basis based on the number of hours worked.

The proposed idea to include tipping for in-store purchases has been met with mixed reactions. Some supporters agree that Apple employees should be able to accept tips for exemplary customer service. Others, however, are questioning AppleCORE's decision and overall approach to addressing its organization's wage concerns.

Critics of AppleCORE's proposed tipping plan have commented that the group would be better served by negotiating better hourly rates, commission plans, or other more equitable solutions. Some have also questioned the decision to request tips in a manner similar to the service industry, an industry where hourly rates can be as low as $2.13/hour rather than the $22/hr (or more based on locality) currently paid to Apple employees. These same detractors also pointed out that the tipping system could simply serve as a deterrent to customers by pushing them into online purchases in order to avoid any additional costs.

The proposed tip distribution method has also been called into question. Based on the pooling approach outlined in AppleCORE's proposed package, the distribution plan would reward all employees from the tip pool based on the number of scheduled hours worked rather than the level of service provided during those hours. In short, two employees working an equal number of hours would be tipped the same amount regardless of the quality of service provided.

According to AppleCORE's official Twitter feed, the union's recently proposed changes for bargaining unit employees also includes requests ranging from establishing standard 401k benefits to expanding the types and amounts of available paid and unpaid leave. Some of these proposed requests include:

  • Paid leave for jury duty
  • Reimbursement and pay increases for CPR/AED/First Aid training courses and certifications
  • Increased pay for employees providing training to others
  • Two weeks of severance pay per year employed, up to a maximum of 34 weeks
  • Unpaid leaves of absence ranging from 30 days to a maximum of two years
  • 45 days of bereavement leave usable for family, friends, and pets

AppleCORE's representatives have acknowledged that discussions are just beginning, and they expect the proposed values to change during the negotiation process. For now, Apple retail employees and other tech industry workers around the country are watching the situation with a close eye, as the outcome could drive additional unionization and future employment negotiations.