Starbucks’ vicious anti-union campaign isn’t stopping workers from organizing at dozens of stores

The fierce anti-union campaign Starbucks waged in Buffalo last year—bringing in extra managers, closing stores and encouraging workers to go listen to former CEO Howard Schultz speak, and aggressively transferring workers into a store it had previously been content to leave understaffed—was not because the company was afraid of the immediate effects of three corporate-owned stores with unionized workers. (Some Starbucks owned by other companies that license the brand are already unionized.) Similarly, in Mesa, the company barraged workers with texts and emails pressuring them to vote against unionizing. Starbucks waged a fierce anti-union campaign because it wanted to send a message to workers across the country that it was useless to try. Because it wanted to prevent a wave of organizing across the country—exactly as is happening right now.

We know who ‘the union’ is: It’s us,” Tyler Ralson, a worker in Mesa, told local news reporter Hunter Bassler. “[Corporate] keeps telling us that it’s a third-party organization that’s going to come between us. Even if that was true, I feel like I’d want that because [corportate] isn’t showing us the self-respect and the dignity that a company should.”

The company isn’t giving up. Starbucks is once again asking the National Labor Relations Board to change the rules on its behalf. Just as it did before the first three Buffalo stores held their elections, Starbucks is asking the NLRB to cancel the individual store-by-store union representation elections in favor of a single election at a broader pool of stores—ones where workers haven’t started organizing—a demand that was rejected last fall in Buffalo, was rejected by an acting regional director in the current set of Buffalo elections and was rejected by a regional director for the Mesa effort. The company has plenty of money to keep trying to bludgeon the NLRB into changing its mind, though. Workers in the Buffalo stores about to vote are also getting the whole anti-union text message routine.

Starbucks management was and is abusive, taking advantage of broken U.S. labor laws. There are a lot of people working at that corporate headquarters who should have trouble sleeping at night. But management wasn’t wrong in its assessment of the possibilities if the Buffalo workers won. There is a real upsurge of organizing among Starbucks workers across the country, including in places that are in no way bastions of union power. 

If you’re in the Tallahassee, Florida, area, check this out:


And keep an eye out for organizing efforts at your local Starbucks, and for opportunities to support the workers.

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