Starbucks workers organize 300th store
Starbucks in Sacramento becomes the 300th store in the chain to unionize | Brandon Dawkins via Twitter

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Starbucks Workers United, the grass-roots worker organizing campaign which the Service Employees aid, has organized its 300th store in the U.S., in Sacramento, Calif. The vote was 11-2 on April 14 at the store at 7th and K Streets in the California capital.

The Sacramento vote came just weeks after Starbucks’s annual board and shareholders meeting in Seattle and via Zoom. There, pressure from New York City Comptroller Brad Lander—representing five union pension funds–and two pro-worker investment groups forced the board to commission an independent report on whether it honors workers’ rights in the U.S.

But at that same meeting, a top company exec, Vice President A.J. Jones, rejected a shareholder demand from the floor for company neutrality during organizing drives. Jones claimed, with no proof, that all neutrality resolutions include card-check recognition, thus depriving the firm of “direct communication” with workers.

“Despite Starbucks using every dirty trick to deter us, we were able to become true partners in the company,” Sacramento barista Melanie Jensen told Starbucks Workers United. “We could not have done it without our union siblings at the 299 stores that came before us, and we are thrilled our store can represent such an impressive milestone.”

The Starbucks Sacramento workers join the ever-growing movement by low-wage exploited workers nationwide, including baristas, warehouse workers, port truckers, adjunct professors, retail workers, and fast food workers. Those workers, having had it up to here with corporate greed and exploitation, have responded by either unionizing in the tens of thousands or by voting with their feet: Walking away from lousy jobs to better, often unionized, jobs.

Starbucks’s anti-union and anti-worker campaign, orchestrated by founder and former CEO Howard Schultz, is so extensive that it’s produced five federal court injunctions against the firm for labor law-breaking excesses—and more than 1,400 complaints so far to the National Labor Relations Board, leading to hundreds of NLRB charges, bunched into more than 80 groups.

When company vice president and chief communications officer Jones—whom Schultz calls its point person on labor relations—rejected the company neutrality request, he left some reasons unsaid, the shareholders meeting transcript showed.

The key one: NLRB-run election campaigns give firms the chance to break labor law through threats, intimidation and outright lies to workers. Workers must sit through “captive audience meetings,” often barred from uttering a peep, or face intimidating one-on-one managerial interrogations, often including implicit threats to their jobs if they vote union. The bosses also get to bring in “persuaders” aka union-busters, for more, and more expensive, dirty work.

Neutrality “would prohibit the ability for us to talk openly and freely with our partners,” Jones said. “A direct relationship could change under union representation. A card check process…versus a secret ballot election…would deny our partners the right to vote on whether they want to be represented by a union or not.” Partners is Starbucks’s “feel-good” name for workers.

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.