Picket signs are pictured at a rally in support of workers of two Seattle Starbucks locations that announced plans to unionize, during an evening rally at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle, Washington, on January 25, 2022 | Jason Redmond – AFP via Getty Images
This week, Starbucks workers hit a milestone of 200 stores filing to unionize. The union has doubled the number of filings in just over six weeks, with more stores joining the movement at a remarkable pace.
As noted by More Perfect Union, the milestone marks an acceleration in the union drive. The first 100 stores filed for unionization over the course of about 172 days; the second 100 stores took only 48 days. Stores are now filing at an average of more than two stores a day, and have filed in 30 states. Union filings cover over 5,000 workers across the country.
The milestone also comes as Starbucks Workers United has doubled the number of stores that have successfully formed a union. Just about a month ago, six stores had voted to unionize; as of yesterday, 13 stores had voted to form a union, with more elections in the pipeline.
Three stores in Rochester, New York, won a union after their votes were counted on Thursday, marking the first stores in Rochester to unionize. There are now unionized stores in New York, Arizona, Washington and Tennessee, including the company’s flagship roastery in New York City.
“My heart is so full. I couldn’t be more proud of the strength, patience, and perseverance our team demonstrated throughout this very difficult transition,” said Michaela Wagstaff, a shift supervisor and union organizer at a suburban Rochester store, at a press conference. “To others who wish to begin this journey, it’s real and it’s possible. To those who paved the way, thank you for allowing us to learn from you and rely on you.”
Starbucks Workers United has won all but one of its union elections so far, despite a harsh union-busting campaign from the company, which appears to be escalating its tactics as the union secures more wins. The company has been firing pro-union workers in attempts to quash union efforts; though retaliating against workers for unionizing is illegal, labor charges can take months or years to investigate, meaning that the union vote could be compromised even if the company is later found to have been breaking the law.
Recently, Starbucks fired union organizer Laila Dalton, a worker in Phoenix, Arizona, who the labor board found was previously illegally retaliated against by the company. Dalton, the only Black person at her store, was threatened by managers and Starbucks HR, who interrogated her over her union organizing and asked if she had made false accusations of racism.
The union has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over Dalton’s firing, saying that her firing was a violation of labor laws. The NLRB previously found the firing of another Phoenix union organizer, Alyssa Sanchez, to be illegal.
Meanwhile, the company has spent likely millions of dollars on its anti-union efforts. It recently fired its top general counsel Rachel Gonzalez, who received $5.3 million in compensation last year, according to Bloomberg Law. The termination is likely related to the union-busting drive, which interim CEO Howard Schultz appears to be planning to escalate.
In a town hall with workers on his first day as interim CEO on Monday, Schultz said that companies like Starbucks are “being assaulted in many ways by the threat of unionization.” He referred to unions as “outside organizations” that are driving a wedge between management and employees — even though union organizers have repeatedly insisted that the workers themselves make up the union, and that the only party creating division is management.
Workers have repeatedly asked Schultz and former CEO Kevin Johnson to sign onto their “Fair Election Principles,” which outline non-interference guidelines for the company.
“We know that this is a victory and we will celebrate it as such, but we won’t feel true success until Starbucks signs the Fair Election Principles to allow others the room to truly engage in an unbiased election,” said Maggie Carter, an organizer in Knoxville, Tennessee, when the Knoxville store won their union last week. “This company can do so much better for us, and we can’t wait to show the entire country exactly what that looks like.”
Sharon Zhang is a news writer at Truthout.
Truthout, April 8, 2022, https://truthout.org/