In recent months, workers at over 220 Starbucks locations in 33 states across the United States have organized to join a union, with a store in Buffalo, New York being the first store to unionize back in December 2021.
The struggle has not come without some serious consequences. Many of the core organizers across the country have faced retaliation for their efforts. The company has forced workers into captive audience anti-union meetings, temporarily closed down stores where workers were looking to unionize, and even fired at least 70 pro-union workers on a range of trumped-up charges.
Starbucks management, of course, denies that the firings were acts of retaliation — but the workers know what’s really going on. And a judge recently confirmed that Starbucks was retaliating, had repeatedly violated workers’ rights, and had to rehire seven fired workers. The goal of the retaliation is clearly to instill a climate of fear, but it appears that this intimidation has been largely unsuccessful as Starbucks workers continue to organize their forces.
There are about 9,000 Starbucks stores in the country, so Starbucks workers still have a long way to go. The conditions Starbucks workers are fighting against — low wages, inconsistent schedules, no job security, short-staffing, speed up and more — are some of the same concerns of many workers, both in the service industry and beyond. So the example of Starbucks workers organizing to improve their working conditions can be an example to other workers across the country. And many Starbucks workers are young and have never participated in organizing anything like this in their lives. Their courage to stand up to the multi-million dollar company and all of its harassment and threats should be an inspiration to other workers, and a reminder of the power that workers have if we organize our forces together.