Union Shenanigans Are Morphing While Starbucks and Apple Buckle Down

by | Apr 28, 2022 | CWA, Hospitality, NLRB, Retail, SEIU, Union Organizing

We recently told you how union organizing drives are stepping outside the box and abandoning old-guard ways in favor of new strategies to ensnare workers in industries that are not traditionally plagued by union activity. To that point, workers at a thrift store admitted that they organized after being inspired by a nearby Starbucks, and now, even climbing gyms aren’t immune to unionizing. Employees at the Virginia-based Movement Climbing voted to join the SEIU, likely as part of the new union pattern of aiming at “progressive” employers.

Make no mistake, that arsenal of strategies leads to some strange places.

Over on the TikTok social media platform, a group of digital activists (known as Gen-Z for Change) have apparently labeled themselves as the “progressive movement’s TikTok army.” The group admitted to targeting Starbucks with scripts that generated an onslaught of 40,000 fake job applications to replace a handful of organizing workers, who the coffee house giant allegedly fired for union support. The group also claims that over 100,000 TikTokers are ready to answer calls for action.

In other Starbucks-related organizing news:

  • The Starbucks dismissals also attracted an NLRB lawsuit, through which the Feds aim to force the company into rehiring three Phoenix employees, who the board maintains were let go through “illegal conduct” by Starbucks.
  • Starbucks made its own complaints with the NLRB. Those include allegations that organizers of Starbucks Workers United physically intimidated employees (who didn’t wish to join the drive) and endangered customers while picketing.
  • After 20 Starbucks stores unionized (and that includes 4 unanimous votes for unionizing in one week), that streak ended with a loss at a Virginia location. Returning (interim) CEO Howard Schultz urged other Starbucks locations to follow suit while he pledged to prove that he can address employee concerns in an ultimately more productive way than a union.
  • To that end, Schultz is reportedly considering offering better benefits exclusively to nonunion employees, meaning that a two-tiered system would be created, and the benefits in question would not be available to any Starbucks worker who votes for unionization.
  • Could Schultz pull off such a plan? The legal waters look nebulous at best, and Schultz has reportedly cited federal law while considering this route. Expect this to be a future point of contention if it materializes.

Another giant (in the Silicon Valley tech-retail realm) might face a Starbucks-like trickle of union activity. Apple Store workers confirmed months of whispers:

  • Retail workers at an Atlanta Apple Store became the first outlet to file for a union election with May 5 as a proposed on-site election day. They aim to be known as the Apple Workers Union under the Communication Workers of America (CWA), who previously launched an aggressive CODE-CWA (Coalition to Organize Digital Employees) mission to organize tech employees.
  • Apple’s Atlanta union organizers nodded toward an Amazon Alabama warehouse (where the company actually won two elections, and the union hasn’t been voted in) as their inspiration for seeking representation.
  • Workers at a second Apple store (at Grand Central Terminal store in New York City) began organizing, although they haven’t gained enough signatures yet to file with the NLRB for an election with the Workers United arm of the SEIU. One of their key demands, which matches the Atlanta workers’ demands: a $30 minimum wage.

The ongoing Amazon organizing drives saw development, too:

  • The e-commerce behemoth filed to appeal the JFK8 Staten Island vote, which landed in favor of becoming the company’s first unionized warehouse. Within that appeal, Amazon accused the NLRB of voter suppression and cited alleged bribery tactics by union organizers.
  • A second vote in Bessemer, Alabama showed preliminary results that pointed toward an Amazon victory over the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The union is objecting to the vote as this saga continues.

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