What Do Starbucks Workers Want?
Company adopts strategies to stop domino effect of individual stores filing union representation petitions.
A Starbucks union supporter talked about pay and perks that some front-line workers would envy.
But Gailyn Berg, a shift supervisor at a Starbucks store in Buffalo, NY, also told NPR that Starbucks had rejected efforts by staffers to make their workplace safer at the start of the pandemic by setting up a table outside for customers to pick up orders.
She said workers were outraged to learn then-CEO Kevin Johnson was slated to receive a 40% raise because Starbucks’ sales exploded in 2021. At that time, Starbucks’ starting pay was about $14 per hour.
Workers felt stressed out and “voiceless,” said Berg.
“We just want to be respected. We want to be listened to. We want to have our voices heard.” - Starbucks worker in Mesa, AZ.
In the course of one blindingly short year, some 180 corporate-owned Starbucks stores across the country have petitioned the National Labor Relations Association (NLRB) for the right to bargain for better pay and working conditions. Starbucks has about 9,000 corporate owned stores.
Union representation petitions filed with the NLRB generally increased by 57% during the first six months of 2022, rising from 748 to 1,174. A representation petition requests the right to conduct an election to determine whether employees wish to be represented by a union.
Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), is representing the workers and, so far, has won 17 out of 18 Starbucks unionization votes. On Monday, a Starbucks store in Boston, MA, became the first in that state to unionize by a vote of 11-to-0.
Since the unionization effort began, Starbucks showed CEO Kevin Johnson the door and Howard Schultz returned as Starbucks’ chief operating officer. Starbucks’ plans to raise starting pay to at least $15 per hour this summer. And Starbucks hired Frank Britt as its “chief strategy officer.”
Britt’s Starbucks biography says he is “passionate about helping people reach their dreams.” But Britt clearly was not hired to help Starbucks workers achieve their dream of having a voice in Starbucks operations and profits. Britt and Starbucks have adopted aggressive strategies to block the unionization effort, including a campaign tostop the domino effect of individual stores voting pro-union by arguing that union votes should be held region-wide.
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