After workers at a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, successfully unionized the first Starbucks store in the United States in December, organizing at the coffee giant has gained momentum as more and more stores are seeking to unionize. By January, another store successfully unionized, with others filing for votes. As of February 11, 78 stores in 23 states have filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold unionization votes, after management refused to recognize the union. The workers’ demands include better wages, working conditions, and proper Covid safety measures.
Starbucks has responded with union-busting. Last week at a Memphis location, seven workers key to the union organizing effort were fired for allegedly violating “safety and security” policies. Protests were held at that location the next day. Other anti-union tactics include surveilling workers, forcing workers to attend meetings in which executives attempt to discourage them from organizing, and even temporarily closing stores.
Starbucks brands itself as progressive, pledging to achieve “carbon neutral green coffee” as an example, but a progressive veneer doesn’t make them friends to workers. A worker from a Starbucks on Long Island, New York, elaborates on this: “They call us ‘partners’ and create an image that they care about us and that we have a voice and can speak about our concerns. But every time I have raised a concern, I have been ignored or vilified.”
Democratic Party politicians have paid lip service to unionizing Starbucks workers via tweets, visiting locations fighting to unionize, and even signing a letter of “solidarity” with the workers. But supportive words don’t do anything tangible to help the workers in their fight against the bosses. Democrats persistently show that they are no friends to workers. A movement of the rank and file will be the ones to unionize this employer. They can be a great example for how to build a movement of the working class that is not beholden to any false “friends,” but is self-organized to fight.