Organizing Brags And Stumbles

by | Nov 3, 2022 | Courts, Industry, NLRB, Retail, Tech - Media, Union Organizing, Unions

The Starbucks organizing pace may have slowed to a simmer, but the saga won’t be over anytime soon. Over 250 Starbucks cafes have unionized thus far, and both sides will eventually meet at the bargaining table. Those baristas also inspired organizing activity in several industries, including retail, where workers look mighty attractive to unions in a tight job market with the holiday season approaching.

We’ve seen multiple unions come for Apple workers with the first unionized store recently emerging in Oklahoma City. Organizing the tech giant has proven to be a slow-going process, and some notable organizing stumbles now surface elsewhere:

  • Trader Joe’s United squeaked out a so-called “streak” of two union wins at Minnesota and Massachusetts stores. That momentum came to a grinding halt this week when workers voted down the union at a Brooklyn outlet. Workers at a Colorado store also petitioned the NLRB for a vote. It remains to be seen how many of the grocery chain’s 500+ stores will do the same.
  • Home Depot Workers United held a “rally” outside of a Philadelphia store with the event drawing the attention of a local radio station. However, the event reportedly only attracted “about 20” supporters despite organizers lauding attendance from area union locals including Philadelphia Carpenters, American Federation of Teachers, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

A certain coffeehouse giant continues to come under NLRB fire on multiple fronts:

  • Starbucks employees in Seattle are contesting the company’s decision to expand benefits in non-union stores. That adds up to a $1 billion commitment with the company reasoning that they’re “not permitted by law” to beef up those same benefits for union stores while collective bargaining is ongoing. The union is asking the NLRB to decide whether Starbucks is discriminating against those who engage in union activity. And the union wants back pay, of course.
  • A U.S. District Court judge in New York ordered Starbucks Workers United to turn over private conversations with journalists. Starbucks maintains that these messages will help them ward off “misinformation,” and as one can imagine, this isn’t going over well with organizers.

This is also a surprising development, given that previous courts sided with the union in ordering the company to reinstate workers who say they were fired for union activity. However, this is a gray area that dances around New York’s “shield law,” which maintains that journalists don’t have to turn over information from confidential sources. In this case, organizers are the not-so-secret sources who must perform the disclosure.

  • Starbucks definitely can’t win ‘em all with board and court rulings. The NLRB also unfurled their finding that interim CEO Howard Schultz effectively threatened employees while telling them, “If you hate Starbucks so much, why don’t you work somewhere else?”

As we recently discussed, Schultz hasn’t been doing the company any favors with his public-facing statements on the organizing wave, and it remains to be seen how incoming CEO Laxman Narasimhan will restart the clock when he fully takes the reins in Spring 2023.

  • Some Amazon crossover is on the way for Starbucks with workers at a New York Amazon Go Store filing for an election. To be clear, Starbucks employs these baristas, who maintain that they’re pulling double duty for assisting customers with Amazon Go technology.

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