Starbucks Workers Unionize The Hell Out Of Five Virginia Stores
The Starbucks employees who pour your coffee, prepare your lattes, and do their pass at your name won another victory against the corporate machine. Tuesday, workers at five Starbucks near Richmond, Virginia, voted overwhelmingly to join the Starbucks Workers United union. This brings the total number of unionized Starbucks in the US to 25.
PREVIOUSLY: Congratulations To The Fine Workers At The First Unionized Starbucks Shop!
Workers in Buffalo, New York, successfully unionized the first Starbucks store last December. This inspired Iman Djehiche, a 20-year-old barista, to begin organizing with her own coworkers at their Starbucks in North Chesterfield, Virginia. The strain from the most recent COVID-19 surge was especially motivating.
“It was jump started by the fact that a lot of us were out sick during the beginning of the Omicron surge, so we were really understaffed then,” Djehiche told VICE News. “And we realized exactly how strenuous it can be without the support of corporate on our side… our safety was being put second to profit, and we weren’t being treated with any sort of dignity and respect.”
Who needs dignity and respect when Starbucks’ clueless CEO can offer you the chance to get on the ground floor of the NFT scam?
PREVIOUSLY: Once And Future Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Does Good Thing, Weird Thing, Dick Thing
During a "town hall” videoconference, three-time Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz whined about how unfair it was to corporate that workers were unionizing. He claimed workers were “being assaulted in many ways by the threat of unionization.” Then he went full plantation massa and accused Starbucks Workers United of "trying to take our people.” The workers don’t belong to you, and I’ll never understand why the executive class think terms like “our people” somehow sound familial instead of just exploitative.
Vice also reported this week on Starbucks’ obvious and gross union busting efforts.
Over the past two months, Starbucks has fired workers across the country for: allegedly breaking a sink on purpose; leaving at the end of a shift while one other worker was working; “safety violations” after being interviewed inside the store by a television crew after-hours; entering the store alone when arriving to work early; allegedly being late to work without letting anyone know ahead of time; allegedly recording supervisors without their permission; allegedly failing to close the store properly; and more.
If employees can lose their jobs for this petty crap, they’re definitely gonna form a union on your ass. That’s why unions exist in the first place — to protect employees from the unfair labor practices.
During my own corporate management days, I attended a “labor meeting” that suddenly became a union-bashing session. It started off innocently enough — “How can we keep our staff happy?" — but the next thing I knew, everyone was in creepy Eyes Wide Shut robes and I was being passed a mask.
The common corporate line is that unions are bad for workers because they don't operate in the best interests of the company. However, it’s not in the best interest of the company to bully employees. There were so many ways that Starbucks could have addressed worker concerns over the past couple years, and the company just hasn’t bothered. A living wage is the lowest hanging fruit.
Karolina Albert, a 26-year-old barista, told Vice, “barely anyone can afford to live [in Richmond], let alone Starbucks baristas ... I have a full-time job on top of [Starbucks], where I work part-time. Sometimes I’ll get home at midnight or 12:30, and turn around and leave my apartment at 6 or 6:30 in the morning.”
Howard Schultz is worth $3.9 billion and planned to blow at least $100 million on a vanity presidential campaign. Meanwhile, Starbucks employees work themselves into the ground just to survive.
Meanwhile, newly empowered Djehiche wants to improve employee wages and overall health and safety at her store. That’s the kind of leadership Starbucks workers need.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."