Just how yummy the coffee at Starbucks is has been reasonably debated among latte lovers for years. However, what is hardly debatable is just how delicious the irony is as more and more Starbucks workers have unionized and now taken to the streets on strike against one of the more Woke corporations in America.
Just this week, two more unionized Starbucks California locations have seen employees walk out on strike citing among other things, unfair labor practices at the Seattle-based corporate behemoth. Workers at the Lakewood and Barstow locations walked off the job in a one-day strike on Monday and joined comrades at a Santa Cruz location who began a three-day strike on Saturday. Employees at the Santa Cruz location and a sister store in the same city were the first California locations to unionize in May.
Support for unions and unionization has been one of the hallmarks of the progressive left for decades. Both private and public sector unions have been reliable allies both financially and electorally for liberal causes and political candidates for decades. As of late, major corporations have unreservedly entered the political fray, pledging support for social justice causes and other Woke initiatives. Starbucks, one of the largest “fast food” chains (second to Subway in locations and second to McDonalds in systemwide sales) in the nation, has certainly been at the forefront of championing progressive causes for quite some time.
One could take a quick glimpse at the Starbucks Stories and News website and their Equity Inclusion and Diversity Timeline to determine just how invested the company is in social justice causes. Words and phrases within such as Black Lives Matter, Inclusivity, Pay Equity, BIPOC (Black Indigenous, People of Color) LGBTQ+, etc. are just too numerous to tally. Consider:
- Starbucks Corporation filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court “supporting universities’ flexibility to consider race in admissions” just this month.
- Last month Starbucks petitioned the U.S. Senate to pass The Respect for Marriage Act.
- The corporation boasts of receiving a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index based on corporate policies and practices for LGBTQ+ equality for the eighth consecutive year and eleventh year overall.
- 6 figure financial donations to Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Transgender Equality in honor of Pride Month.
- A commitment to “expanding plant-based menu options, shifting away from single use to reusable packaging options, and investing in regenerative agriculture, reforestation, forest conservation and water replenishment in our supply chain. ”
The list goes on and on….and on. Starbucks seems to check all the progressive boxes. Yet, where do they stand on unions, unionization, and the plight of the proletariat? On that, Corporate seems to be able to talk a good game.
A spokesman for Starbucks offered this statement to the L.A. Times:
“Starbuck has great partners, and we value their contributions. We respect our partners’ rights to engage in any legally activity to protest without retaliation. We are grateful for each partner who continues to work, and we always do our best to listen to the concerns of all our partners.”
Okay. Well, that sounds like a fairly nonconfrontational, yet rather tepid response to employees hitting the pavement with placards in hand. But just how supportive has Starbucks been to the unionization efforts across the country and the spate of recent strikes? Dozens of Starbucks locations around the nation have recently unionized or filed applications to do so. There are 14 locations in California alone who have unionized, and that number is likely to continue to grow. To look at the record, it seems like Starbucks Corporation has long been opposed to the unionization effort and their actions and words have been none too subtle.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has essentially been on a crusade across the country to stem the unionization effort. He has promised to increase benefits for those employees who are not part of any union with the obvious implication that those benefits would not be available for those participating with the union. Representatives from Starbucks Workers United, the union leading the organizing effort, claims Starbucks has closed stores, sent executives on surprise checkups, and fired some employees leading calls for unionization.
California Globe has reported on Starbucks closings where the corporation has cited safety concerns in crime and drug prone areas as the reason for shuttering stores. This, in and of itself is tinged with irony, as may of the progressive so-called social justice causes Starbucks has supported arguably have led to rising crime and the corresponding safety issues. And there are many who claim that the safety excuse is just a guise for punishing Starbucks locations where unionization has taken place. Representatives for the union claim that Starbucks has failed to show reasonable evidence for the safety security rationalizations.
Madison Hall, a 25-year-old barista at the Starbucks Long Beach location is leading the effort to unionize there. Hall related a meeting with Schultz at the Long Beach airport where the CEO lashed out and rather candidly asked, “If you hate Starbucks, why don’t you go somewhere else?”
The company is now the subject of National Labor Relations Board investigations (NLRB) by virtue of their union-busting efforts across the country. Ian Hayes, an attorney for Starbucks Workers United wrote:
“It’s a violation of federal labor law to close a store because workers exercised their legal rights. We have no doubt the NLRB will prosecute the company for this illegal union busting, and justice will be done.”
Pragmatically, Shultz and the hierarchy at Starbucks Corporation are right to combat unionization. It will not only cost the corporation and its shareholders in the long run, but there is a strong argument to be made that the decision to join a union should be made by an individual worker, instead of having that decision forced upon them when a simple majority of workers at a location opts for unionization.
Regardless of whether unions are beneficial for the thousands of workers across nearly 15,000 Starbucks locations nationwide, it is clear that revenue is what is driving corporate policy here. And while Starbucks and many other large corporations are proudly talking the talk and walking the walk on a host of cutting-edge progressive causes, they seemingly have turned their backs on the decades old battle from the Left for unionization of workers. One wonders as to whether the support for aforementioned woke causes by corporate America is based in a shared vision for progressive ideology or is also just an effort in shoring up sales and the bottom line.