Only time will tell which corporate giant will reach the unenviable status of becoming the “next Starbucks.” If the Teamsters have their way, the Chipotle Mexican Grill chain could be a candidate, given that the first of 3,000 locations voted to unionize last week in Lansing, Michigan. Here’s what is particularly notable about this bit of organizing news: Chipotle already provides generous benefits (including debt-free degrees and health benefits) to its employees. Yet these workers felt it necessary to choose a third party to represent their interests, proving that the new toolbox of union organizing strategies continues to hold some allure for workers.
The Teamsters continue to (aggressively) get around these days with that toolbox. Workers at a regionally popular (mid-Atlantic) grocery chain, Mom’s Organic Market, voted to join Teamsters Local 570 despite their competitive wages that stack up to at least $15 per hour. Meanwhile, the United Food & Commercial Workers union scored some retail organizing clout by landing an REI store (the second in the company).
These developments give us a good reason to touch upon a recent Bloomberg News article that illustrates that Starbucks actually isn’t the biggest driver of union worker numbers over the past year. Rather, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Kaiser Permanente lead the pack of companies with 1000+ workers becoming unionized.
Speaking of Starbucks, the coffeehouse giant’s organizing woes continue with the closure of two more stores, which Starbucks Workers United has claimed is an act of retaliation. The union further claims that CEO Howard Schultz’s company chose to penalize union workers by denying raises and benefits. The NLRB has now asked Schultz to record a video message, in which he will tell Starbucks workers about their right to organize and apologize for allegedly withholding the aforementioned raises.
We’ll close out this organizing update by reflecting back on California’s fast food workers. The state’s lawmakers recently approved Assembly Bill 257 – the Fast Food Accountability and Standards (FAST) Recovery Act – that would boost minimum wage (up to $22 per hour) for workers who work in chains with 30+ California locations. The SEIU-backed bill met with understandable opposition from employers, who would pass the cost onto consumers, which won’t help inflation rates at all.
This week, the state’s lawmakers advanced the bill, which could still end up in voter’s hands before all is said and done. If ultimately successful, the bill will also grant these workers the power to bargain with the industry at large (via a Fast Food Council) while bypassing their employers. Given that coastal cities tend to spread trends across the country, the fast food workers of California could influence similar union pushes and legislation throughout the U.S. and a variety of industries.