The Old Union-Repelling Strategies Must Give Way To A New Arsenal

by | May 12, 2022 | CWA, Hospitality, NLRB, Politics, Retail, Union Organizing

Less than a year ago, few people would have predicted that Starbucks would soon spring a leak-turned-flood of union organizing activity. This coffee giant is now the center of a movement that has spread to other industries, due in part to (as we recently discussed) how unions now wield a new toolbox of organizing strategies. Starbucks will soon find itself in a place where no employer wants to be: having to tie up time and resources bargaining with the union.

Unions recently set their sights upon so-called “progressive” employers like Apple and Starbucks, the latter of which is stocked to the brim with younger workers who aren’t yet privy to the corruption and manipulative tactics of unions. And although Starbucks provides liberal benefits (including college tuition for even part-time workers), something about the new organization strategies leads employees to believe that they’ll still receive more from representation. And that’s why Apple workers, despite the company’s “woke” policies and relatively cushy starting pay, began to huddle and demand more, too.

At the same time, union membership continues to dwindle, and their desperation to collect more dues translates into those aggressive new organizing missions, bolstered by the most union-friendly NLRB and White House administration in history. Speaking of President Biden, he recently extended a few union handshakes at his home base:

  • Union members from Paizo (a role-playing game company) traveled to the White House, where they enjoyed an Oval Office meeting with not only Biden but also Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.
  • Amazon Labor Union President Christian Smalls spoke before the Senate amid increased union activity at the online retailer’s warehouses. Amazon workers did vote against union representation at a second New York location, but workers at a Montreal warehouse are beginning to sign cards. Meanwhile, new analysis shows that a voter-turnout issue could be key for future Amazon votes.

In other words, unions are going in hard (with full White House support), and employers must match that effort to repel them. Since we led with the Starbucks discussion, here are some updates on that situation and a rundown of other organizing updates:

  • As it currently stands, at least 250 Starbucks cafes (of 9,000+ total) filed union petitions, which yielded about 50 union wins so far. The NLRB also recently slapped the company with a wide-ranging complaint filled with 200+ alleged violations of the NLRA. In the process, the NLRB is demanding back pay for six Starbucks employees allegedly fired for organizing, and Starbucks workers in Massachusetts waged a strike in solidarity with those fired workers. CEO Howard Schultz hopes to stem the tide by promising amped-up benefits (better sick leave, etc.) and pay raises only for workers at non-unionized stores.
  • At Apple retail stores, a rumored organizing trend turned out to be true. In early June, Atlanta store workers will take up the company’s first vote for or against CWA representation with a second Apple store (up in Maryland) following suit.

Some organizing odds and ends:

  • The restaurant industry is traditionally difficult to organize, largely due to high turnover among employees. However, workers at Philadelphia coffee shops and eateries (of nearly every variety) find themselves wooed by Workers United in increasing numbers. Small business owners continue to feel out the situation with the possibility that the entire Philly restaurant world could soon transform.
  • Bookstore workers, largely in California and Oregon locations, are increasingly voting for representation by United Food and Commercial Workers and Industrial Workers of the World. Museum security guards in Seattle want to unionize in search of retirement pay and other benefits. And an Oregon-based village of tiny houses (for the homeless) saw workers organize over safety concerns and pay.

Workers are frustrated, and can you blame them? Inflation, war in Europe, and CoVid is not yet a thing of the past – they are looking for stability, control, voice! Unions are using this wedge to pry open new opportunities. LRI is focused on being in front of these challenges. The best defense is the powerful offense of strong relationships with your younger (and older!) work force. If you want to talk offense give us a call.  800-888-9115.

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