Starbucks Workers Fear Retaliation After Unionizing at Record Speed

Workers from hundreds of unionized Starbucks stores are expected to sit down for collective bargaining for the first time this fall, while others will vote in still more union elections to come.

So far, more than 300 Starbucks stores in close to three dozen states have had union elections. This is a stunning number, considering that not a single company-owned store had a union at this time last year. 

Even more remarkable is that 80 percent of them, or around 245 stores, have gone in favor of forming a union. The impressive numbers show that workers have successfully turned a grassroots campaign into a national labor movement, and have done so quickly. 

In the past week, Starbucks locations in Washington, D.C., Albuquerque, N.M., and Westlake, Ohio, became the latest to join the national union Workers United.

While the numbers seem large, unionized stores still make up only about 3 percent of the 9,000 company-operated Starbucks stores around the country. 

Organizers blame the slowdown in their momentum on what they call Starbucks’ “scorched-earth” campaign to crush the union. The number of stores petitioning to hold union elections has dropped dramatically in recent months. 

There was a flood of activity in the first half of 2022. There were 71 petitions filed in March, which was the biggest month of activity. In August, there were eight petitions filed. 

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz returned to lead the company in April. Since then, Starbucks has taken a wide array of measures to aggressively fight the union. 

The aggressive measures include blanketing employee communications with anti-union messaging, like one-on-one meetings, to announcing raises and benefits for nonunion stores only, to firing workers identified as union leaders.

Starbucks has been charged with violating the federal labor law that protects workers’ rights to organize. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is tasked with investigating the more than 325 unfair labor practice charges brought by the union.

Despite this, Starbucks has forged ahead with its anti-union actions. 

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