Welcome to the wild world of collective bargaining, where the quest for a first-time collective bargaining agreement (CBA) often feels like an episode straight out of ‘Stranger Things’ – unpredictable, a little strange, and full of twists and turns.

Starbucks Workers United: A Coffee Saga

Let’s start with Starbucks Workers United. Picture this: over 8,000 workers, 360 stores, 40 states, organized since August of 2021, and yet – drumroll, please – not a single CBA in sight as of November 2023. It’s like a ‘Groundhog Day’ scenario, where both sides seem stuck in a never-ending loop. Starbucks suggests hundreds of bargaining sessions, but the union’s attendance is like spotting a rare and almost mythical unicorn. The union accuses Starbucks of avoiding negotiations and bad faith bargaining because they don’t want to engage in hybrid bargaining sessions with people calling in via Zoom. The company has thrown unfair labor practice charges at the union, with the union replying in kind. The union called for national negotiations by Starbucks, even though they made the successful argument for organizing by individual stores. Predictably, Starbucks laughs this request off like Eddie Munson strumming his guitar in the Upside Down, unphased and ready for a supernatural showdown.

Starbucks has only three union contracts in all of North America, and those are in Canada, in provinces where collective bargaining plays under different rules. There are no contracts anywhere in the United States, and it’s unlikely that we will see one soon. One thing is sure: this tussle isn’t ending anytime soon, staying more heated than your morning latte. 

Trader Joe’s United: Trader Who?

At Trader Joe’s, the plot thickens. Four stores have gone full ‘Viva la Resistance,’ but there’s a catch – the union’s allegations of coercion and intimidation have turned this into a legal thriller. Think ‘Law & Order: Organized Crime’ meets grocery retail. The union is banking on a Cemex bargaining order from the NLRB at a store where the employees have already chosen not to unionize, a move akin to a buzzer-beater in basketball – high stakes, high drama. Though there have been sporadic negotiations, there is no contract to be found.

Apple Retail Union: David vs. Tech Goliath

Over at Apple Retail in Towson, Maryland, it’s like watching David gear up against Goliath. The union’s fighting for better pay and conditions, but Apple’s been accused of playing it as cool as a villain in a spy movie. This battle in Big Tech’s backyard is more gripping than any season finale, and like the others we have mentioned, negotiations seem to be going pretty much nowhere at the moment.

REI: Not So Great Outdoors

REI workers are in it for the long haul, like a marathon runner with no finish line in sight. They want stability – steady hours, better pay – but feel like they’re up against a corporate strategy as enigmatic as a Christopher Nolan plot. Getting a first union contract is like navigating a scene from “Inception,” ever-shifting and changing, but never sure it is reality.

Chipotle: A Slow-Cooked Drama

Chipotle’s Union tale is a slow-cooked drama. The Teamsters want a living wage and better conditions, but Chipotle’s response? “How about a nickel?” It’s like waiting for your burrito bowl during a lunchtime rush – slow, not always satisfying, and still no contract.

Amazon Labor Union (ALU): The New Frontiers

And then there’s the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), boldly going where no Amazon worker has gone before. They’re like the Starship Enterprise crew of the union world, navigating uncharted territories in unionization with a big win at the Staten Island Amazon warehouse in April 2022 and basically nada to show for it since then. Nearly a year and a half after its victory on Staten Island, the Amazon Labor Union grapples with election losses at other sites and internal conflicts between its leaders. They are caught in the same cycle of ULP charges and lack of progress in negotiations as Starbucks. Current status – no contract at Amazon.

The Big Picture

So, here’s the tea: securing a first-time CBA is tougher than finding a polite comment on Twitter. And thanks to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employers aren’t legally bound to agree to a contract. It’s like being in a ‘Hunger Games’ scenario – may the odds ever be in your favor, but don’t bet your bottom dollar on it.

Ultimately, these unions are all striving for their Hollywood ending, but the script is still being written. Stay tuned – this season of “Union’s First Contracts” is far from over.

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