Starbucks, Amazon Accused of Fighting to Prevent to Avoid Union Contracts

Experts said companies will “fight to the end” to prevent the next step in unionization. Over the past year, workers at Amazon, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, and Apple have achieved historic and hard-won battles for union victories. 

But now many of these newly unionized workers fear they may face an even bigger challenge: negotiating a first union contract. 

There has been extremely slow progress at Starbucks. Unions have won elections at more than 220 stores. Many baristas are upset that Starbucks has begun negotiations with workers at only three of them.

Employees said the company’s insistence on negotiating individual contracts with each of the 200-plus unionized stores aims to delay ever reaching a contract with all of its unionized stores. 

Workers also said that Starbucks had repeatedly failed to provide the union’s negotiators with needed information about the economics and operations of the unionized stores.

They believe the only conclusion is that Starbucks is not ready to negotiate a fair contract. 

Agreeing on a first contract quickly is a high-stakes matter. If unionized workers at Starbucks, Amazon, or Trader Joe’s facilities quickly reach their first contracts that contain impressive raises and benefits, that will no doubt inspire workers at many other Starbucks, Amazon, and Trader Joe’s operations to seek to unionize. 

But if these massive companies manage to drag out reaching a first contract for a year or two or three, that could send a strong signal that unionization might not be the big win workers had hoped for.

Labor experts said that founders like Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Howard Schultz of Starbucks view unions as a violation of everything they have achieved. 

“They’ll fight to the end to prevent a contract,” said Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University.

Bronfenbrenner said Starbucks and Amazon know that if they drag out contract negotiations, there will be huge employee turnover and workers might grow impatient and disgruntled with their unions, which may prompt them to vote to decertify it.

Lawyer for the Amazon Labor Union, Seth Goldstein, said he thinks Amazon will drag the negotiations out unless the union puts pressure on them. 

The Amazon Labor Union scored a huge union victory at an 8,300-employee Amazon warehouse on Staten Island in New York in April. 

Putting pressure on a colossus like Amazon won’t be easy, experts acknowledged. But some have pointed to ways that people can help. Recently 70 prominent TikTok creators with collectively more than 51 million followers have called for boycotting Amazon unless it halts its anti-union efforts and grants big concessions to its workers.

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