Will These Union Organizing ‘Firsts’ Follow the Starbucks Pattern?

by | Jul 7, 2022 | CWA, IBT, Retail, Strikes, Tech - Media, UFCW, Union Organizing

We recently shared the news of organizing “firsts” for companies that previously were unscathed by union activity. In 2022, a new toolbox is helping unions get a foot into a company’s door. As we have seen with Starbucks, “firsts” can become trickles that have the potential to become a deluge, and there is the question of whether Apple – which recently saw workers (at a Baltimore location) vote in favor of the first unionized retail store – could see a flood of workers following suit at other stores.

For its part, Apple announced that they’re ready to bargain with the Baltimore workers (as represented by the Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers) on the issue of pay and increased benefits. Workers United and the CWA have launched a coordinated effort to organize more stores out of the total 270 U.S. Apple retail locations. The coming months should tell us a lot about whether the Starbucks pattern will further spread across unrelated industries, as it has already begun to do elsewhere.

Here are some recent organizing updates of interest:

  • At the first Trader Joe’s location to organize (as Trader Joe’s United), workers will vote on union representation on July 27 in Hadley, Massachusetts.
  • The first Chipotle Mexican Grill workers to organize (as Chipotle United) filed for their union election for an Augusta, Maine location.
  • Several Union Kitchen locations (including 50+ workers) in the Washington, D.C. area saw workers vote to join the United Food and Commercial Workers.
  • When one thinks about the United Auto Workers, workers in academia don’t usually spring to mind. Yet in recent years, the UAW focused on capturing university workers (including graduate student assistants) in significant numbers. There’s no monopoly there, however, because at least 500 Santa Clara faculty members in California just voted to join the SEIU.
  • And in a move that’s semi-stunning (for the sheer numbers involved), the Teamsters moved in on cannabis facilities in a targeted way over the past year. Since spring 2021, almost 500 workers at more than a dozen facilities (dispensaries and distributors) voted for Teamsters representation. The $25 billion business also attracted the United Food and Commercial Workers, for which a Curaleaf dispensary (in Arizona) also recently voted to unionize.

Meanwhile, the Starbucks saga keeps simmering. Over the past few weeks, two dozen more cafes voted to unionize, bringing the total to 171 stores across the U.S. that have voted for outside representation. That amounts to almost 2% of the total Starbucks locations across the country, and while that might not seem like too many (compared to 8,000+ existing Starbucks locations in the U.S.), all cafes that voted to unionize did so over the past year. Already, multiple unionized Starbucks cafes saw strikes begin, which might point toward trouble ahead at the bargaining table.

And although Starbucks, given its high profile, might be viewed as the template for current organizing trends, they weren’t truly the first coffeehouses to see union activity. The trend actually began about a year prior, in 2020, at two separate independently owned Milwaukee coffeehouses. NPR published a report that details how these two locations saw very different results (with only one set of workers voting for union representation), yet both workplaces turned upside down in the process.

If you are interested in what we’ve recently been doing to help guard against union activity, give us a call (800-888-9115).

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