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  • I started with Starbucks back in August of 2010.

  • I am in the arts in the United States of America.

  • And so I needed some way to get health benefits.

  • And Starbucks was a company that had touted that

  • they were very progressive.

  • And one of the things that they offered was benefits for part time employees.

  • It was really the company it professed to be at the beginning of all of this.

  • And unfortunately, in the last few years, we've started to see that that slide.

  • And so it was time to make some changes.

  • Across the U.S., The pandemic has spurred service workers

  • to protest workplace conditions and fight for better treatment and wages.

  • Some, like Michelle, have tried to form a union.

  • In the United States, that can be a daunting task.

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021

  • 15.8 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union

  • with only 1.6% of members belonging to the food and drinking service industry.

  • I had made the decision

  • after having worked through this pandemic for a year and a half that I was done.

  • I was tired.

  • I was overwhelmed and overworked.

  • And I was watching my coworkers struggle to pay their rent

  • and put groceries in their fridge while working a full time job.

  • I'm certainly fighting this for myself, but I'm also fighting it for my coworkers

  • and for future workers in the service industry.

  • This is Michelle Eisen.

  • She's a theater artist, stage manager, and organizing member of Starbucks

  • Workers United.

  • After working for Starbucks locations in the Elmwood neighborhood of Buffalo,

  • and on the island of Oahu in Hawaii as a barista for 11 years

  • and experiencing the perils of COVID 19, Michelle believes she was seeing

  • a troubling shift in the company's culture.

  • The catalyst for where we are now certainly was the pandemic.

  • We were called on to be essential workers in the middle of this pandemic

  • and told us that it was essential for us to be there serving

  • coffee to our communities.

  • And on top of that, we were told that our company

  • was making record breaking profits in the middle of this pandemic.

  • You know, we have a CEO

  • who's bragging about the level of profits that have been raked in by this company.

  • And none of that is being passed down to the workers.

  • And so that was the moment

  • when we really sort of started to evaluate the company we worked for

  • and who they profess to be and realize that something had to change.

  • In August of 2021, a coworker approached Michelle, inviting her for a cup of coffee

  • and presented her with the idea of forming the union.

  • She went point by point and laid out sort of what had been happening around me

  • is that several baristas from several different stores in

  • Buffalo had been talking and they were is exhausted as I was and as overwhelmed

  • and underappreciated and had decided that things needed to change.

  • And this looks like an option and I said, "Okay,

  • I'm on board." "What do you need from me?" In August of 2021, Michelle got to work.

  • She and other members of Starbucks Workers United

  • prepared to file petitions with the National Labor Relations Board

  • to hold union elections for three Starbucks locations in Buffalo.

  • Once the union is recognized by the NLRB, a union contract or collective

  • bargaining agreement is negotiated between workers and management.

  • The contract sets forth the pay,

  • benefits, policies and working conditions at the company.

  • We filed the first three petitions August 30th, and from that point on

  • it has been nonstop corporate presence and interference in this campaign.

  • Starbucks, however, says there's a misconception

  • around the idea that they're fighting unionization.

  • Reggie Bores, the director of corporate communications and inclusivity

  • and Diversity Communications said: "We just don't believe

  • a union is necessary at Starbucks." Once the union petitions were filed,

  • Starbucks began sending executives to the Buffalo locations.

  • Bores said that company leaders visit stores all the time to help

  • and support employees not to spy on or intimidate them.

  • They started showing up at these stores, particularly

  • the ones that had filed petitions saying they were only there to help.

  • They were there totally coincidentally, and it just happened to fall, you know,

  • three days after these petitions filed.

  • They also assigned what they called support managers.

  • So they flew in other store managers

  • from stores across the country, and they assigned them to all of these stores

  • in Buffalo.

  • What they support managers were actually assigned

  • to was to surveil the workers at every possible moment.

  • We've heard from store managers that are no longer with the company,

  • that they were told that workers were never to be left unattended.

  • There was always supposed to be either a store manager or a support manager

  • on the floor to break up any conversation that might arise about the union.

  • It was scary for my coworkers to feel like their every move was being watched.

  • Nobody wants to

  • come into their workplace every day and feel like they're being watched.

  • Despite a corporate executive presence

  • Starbucks Workers United pressed forward to a historic victory.

  • Winning the first union Starbucks

  • in the country, which we did on December 9th, was amazing.

  • To be able to stand there with my coworkers

  • and be the first one to do that.

  • That was fantastic.

  • The movement of unionization for Starbucks locations

  • has grown since the Elmwood December 9th win.

  • I believe we were in 27 states and had 103 petitions filed.

  • Today, we were here in Buffalo for what was going to be

  • the next vote count for three other additional stores

  • that had filed union petitions back in November.

  • But that vote count for those additional stores never happened due to

  • what union advocates said was a deliberate anti-union strategy by Starbucks.

  • An announcement from the NLRB stated that the votes

  • would be impounded because of a request for review filed by Starbucks.

  • Under the Trump administration, the NLRB allowed either party, company

  • or employee to request review of petitions

  • if the request is filed within ten business days of the decision.

  • Starbucks made their request on the 10th day.

  • Ian Hayes, the workers' attorney, spoke at a press conference about this decision.

  • "Starbucks knows what it's doing.

  • Starbucks' attorneys know what they're doing.

  • They were gaming the system to try to delay the process,

  • break the workers momentum just like they have been for the last half year.

  • And this right here is what union busting looks like in the United States in 2022."

  • Bores stated

  • that Starbucks is simply adhering to the NLRB's due process,

  • nothing is being done deliberately to delay or slow down the vote count.

  • So these workers yet again who had worked

  • so hard to get to this point, had their voices silenced.

  • It's unfortunately what had happened in Mesa.

  • Last week.

  • I flew out to Mesa to support that store, and we had to go through the exact

  • same thing right before their vote count.

  • It is another delay tactic after delay tactic after delay tactic

  • that the company has employed.

  • Public support from members of government have pushed the workers

  • to continue their fight.

  • I think we're looking at a new frontier in the labor movement in this country.

  • During the pandemic, a moment called "Striketober" sparked

  • an influx of protests.

  • From Deere and Companies' factories, Kellogg's U.S.

  • plants, to nurses in Massachusetts, and distillery workers in Kentucky.

  • Tens of thousands of union workers across a variety of industries

  • were either on strike or close to it.

  • However, despite ongoing activism,

  • the rate of union membership is down from previous years.

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the rate of union membership

  • was 10.3% in 2021 and is equivalent to pre-pandemic levels of 2019.

  • I think that our laws are a little bit behind, unfortunately,

  • and we're going to have to reform them and adjust them if we want to see

  • this labor movement really take off.

  • And I think that the NLRB is on board with that.

  • I think that they also want to be the agency that protects the worker.

  • So we're just waiting for everything to sort of catch up with our movement.

  • I think what's

  • kept me fighting this fight is knowing that I'm on the right side of history.

I started with Starbucks back in August of 2010.

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Why Starbucks Workers Fought to Unionize

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    たらこ posted on 2022/03/16
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