What the first Starbucks union means to workers around the world


Today, employees of a Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York voted to form a union, making it the first store to join a union among more than 8,000 Starbucks stores in the United States. The second location in Buffalo voted against the union; one-third of the people received a majority of votes for the union, but due to the many challenges faced by individual votes, the result was not the final result.

For Starbucks employees in union stores, this means they will start negotiating contracts for better wages, benefits and working conditions. For everyone else, this may spur more unions in the United States—whether in more Starbucks stores or anywhere else—thanks to the company’s high profile.

“Sometimes strikes and trade union victories can be very contagious,” said Johnnie Kallas, a doctoral candidate in Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, which was before the vote count on Thursday. Chaired a group. “We saw this in the teachers’ strike in 2018. They started in West Virginia; they quickly spread to North Carolina, Arizona, Oklahoma and other states.”

He added,”[This vote] It can motivate many workers in the low-ununionized sectors across the country to fight for union rights. “

Due to the limitations of the existing data set, it is not clear at this time the exact extent of the union organization in the United States, Kallas said, he is the leader of a project. Tools to monitor union actions All over the country.According to his statistics, as of November this year, there have been 243 strikes, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has only 13 strikes recorded (The agency only collects strike data for more than 1,000 workers).For example, the BLS count will not include strikes 700 nurses in Massachusetts Earlier this year. Even so, the number of larger strikes that the Bureau of Labor Statistics does count has declined since the 1970s.

We also don’t have union membership data for 2021. What we do know is that the proportion of union members in the United States has been declining for decades due to the difficulties of forming a union.But in 2020, it rises slightly to approximately 11%In the private sector, this ratio is about half. In recent years, the number of union petitions filed with the NLRB has also declined, although Richard Griffin, the former general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, said that due to the organization’s pandemic.

But there are reasons to believe that since the beginning of the pandemic, unions and union activism have become more popular, which has caused many Americans to reconsider their relationship with work.

Despite the decrease in the number of union members, Americans expressed an increasingly positive view of the labor organization over time.Union sentiment is at a high level in the United States. 68% of Americans support unions. According to Gallup dataThe last time the union approval rate was so high was in 1965.

Employees also have an advantage in a very tight labor market, in which employers are struggling to find enough workers.A record 4.4 million Americans resign According to the latest available data, similar numbers appeared again in September and October.This forces employers to raise wages, especially for some of the lowest-paid workers in industries like this Casual and hospitable, And provide a variety of other better working conditions for some employees, including remote work.

Recently, there have been some high-profile union efforts to bring union issues to the forefront, including in companies like this John Deere with Kellogg. But perhaps the most Amazon has made a compelling effort, The second largest private employer in the United States.Earlier this year, the union vote in Bessemer, Alabama failed, but after the National Labor Relations Commission confirmed, the organizers will hold a new vote Amazon improperly pressured warehouse employees Do not join a union.

This is in line with the broader trend. “Since the 1970s, companies have increasingly engaged in unfair labor practices, including firing organizers, holding mandatory anti-union meetings, and hiring replacement workers during strikes,” Aspen Institute Director of Future Work Planning Shirley Steward said.

Due to increasingly difficult government obstacles, unionization is also in trouble.

“Through the second half of the 20th century, labor laws increasingly favored employers rather than workers,” Steward said.

However, current legislation is working to make these barriers more manageable.this PRO Act, Currently in the Senate, will make it easier for employees to join unions, and if employers illegally try to thwart these efforts, stricter penalties will be imposed. It will also allow contractors and temporary workers—an increasing part of the workforce—to organize with traditional employees.

Even at Starbucks (whose union is organized by the Upstate Workers’ Federation), these votes are just the beginning.Three other stores in Buffalo Known for its high level of unions Compared to the entire country, a union petition has been filed with the National Labor Relations Board, as has a location in Mesa, Arizona.

This also opens the door to more unions in so-called unskilled labor sectors such as leisure and hotels.

Even for workers in this field, this is a new concept.

Buffalo’s Starbucks Barista Kathy Moore said in a pre-voting briefing: “My father is in the teachers’ union, but I really connect the union with teachers and nurses, mainly construction workers in the construction industry.” “So when I am. At the beginning, I thought,’Really, a barista union?’ But then the more I learned about it, the more I thought, “Why not? “There is no reason that a barista should not receive the same benefits and quality of life as other workers.”

Regarding her experience so far, she said: “Every day we understand how difficult it is to form a union in this country, and the difficulties we face are incredible. But today is our voting point, and we are confident that despite these Possibly, we will still win Starbucks, the first union in the United States.”


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