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Yesterday, MNB took note of a Reuters report that “Cory Moll, a part-time employee at an Apple store in San Francisco, is working to form a union to fight for better wages and benefits and to address what he says are unfair practices in the company's glass-and-steel retail showrooms.” The story describes it as “a rare move at a company known for its near-fanatical following and cutting-edge mystique.”

Moll says that the core issues are “compensation, pay, benefits.” He says that after four years as an employee at the Apple Store, he makes $14/hour. “The minimum wage for 2011 in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the United States, is $9.92 an hour,” Reuters writes.

Apple is not commenting on the unionization effort.

We got a number of emails on this story.

One MNB user wrote:

I believe we are seeing the beginning of a renewed union movement…Apple is just a visible target…easy to get the article in the news.  Watch for similar articles about other high visibility targets…

Another MNB user wrote:

Unfortunately, I feel an issue is developing.  My 21 year old has worked at an Apple mall location for over two years now.  He has experienced a deteriorating culture.  Store managers are not leaders.  Store managers are paid bonuses on products/services sold (e.g. Apple Care) while the everyday hourly employees are not paid beyond their hourly wage.  They are pushed to up-sell by their managers without any perks for doing so.   Store hours are being cut and positions left vacant for extended periods of time so managers can turn in better profit numbers for their store.  As one of my son's co-workers put it:  "Yes, it is Apple.  But now it is becoming just another job in a mall."

I’m shocked. If this is typical, it will be a major problem for Apple.

From another MNB user:

Wow. $14/hour for “Part-time” work. I think there are plenty of people that would take that for FULL-Time work. As for your comment that he “moonlights” as a “Skunk in a Garden Party”, I think it would be safe to assume the APPLE job IS his “moonlighting” job….

And another MNB user chimed in:

Let’s assume that Cory Moll was making $9.00/hr when he started 4 years ago.

Now he’s at $14.00/hr.  That’s a 55.55% raise in 4 years. How many of us out have received that kind of increase in the last 4 years?  Even if he started at $9.92, that’s a 41.1% increase.  Does he really think unions are the answer?

Also got an interesting reaction to the piece in which Pick n Pay in South Africa denies a possible acquisition of the company by Tesco:

It is possible an acquisition by Tesco or another retailer may come eventually but Pick N Pay certainly wouldn’t maximize their sales price now. My sense from working with Pick N Pay is they  have a lot of disconnected operational priorities at the moment which impact their ability to stay shopper-focused.

The move to centralized distribution, a move at least  a decade overdue, has been challenging from a brand, operations & financial standpoint. They are way over-SKU’d in many departments / categories.  Pick N Pay does not have national buying synergy. They are ramping up focus on Zimbabwe whilst changing the importance of the Score banner.  They have just introduced their “Smart Shopper” loyalty card and while sign-ups are on-plan, they are not leveraging “Smart Shopper” to create differentiation for their 9 million shoppers.   My sense is that Pick N Pay are more carefully considering vendor input but still don’t fully leverage the knowledge that exists among their major vendors.  In my opinion, they found out last year that “selling more” in an dis-inflationary economy requires different skills than when annual price increases are more certain.

All of these priorities will ultimately enhance Pick N Pay’s value but there is a lot going on at their Kensington office. Making centralized distribution work is key.  Pick N Pay would be aided here if they get the respect and assistance from their Unions they have historically enjoyed.

Last point I’d make: Taking nothing away from Gareth Ackerman or Nick Badminton, Pick N Pay misses Sean Summers focus on “priority execution” more than anyone wants to admit.

This is a great example of the kind of stuff many of us would not know if not for the input from the MNB community. Thanks.
KC's View: