The New Yorker has a long piece about the unionization movement at Starbucks, noting that "baristas nationwide are remarkably organized." Here's an excerpt:
"The Starbucks 'clean play' is corporate jargon for what’s essentially a very deep clean. When business slows down at a café, the manager assigns baristas to scrub the pastry case or rid the toaster oven of oily crumbs or scour the floor. A clean play makes a store just right - which is why workers are using the term in a new, subversive way. A clean play, to members of Starbucks Workers United, the group trying to unionize one of the country’s largest employers and most recognizable brands, is an outreach maneuver to non-union stores. Workers map out their region and target cities or neighborhoods that have yet to unionize. Instead of relying on outside organizers, as is common in the labor movement, Starbucks employees themselves recruit new members. The idea is to connect, in person, with an interested worker and guide them through the steps of organizing. One clean play after another could, in theory, unionize all the Starbucks stores along a stretch of freeway, or even across the country."
While Starbucks and its once-again CEO, Howard Schultz, are playing hardball with the labor organizers, The New Yorker suggests that unionizing workers are "highly disciplined. They used private group chats to mull strategy and teach one another about labor law, not only at their own stores but with others in the region. With the élan of wedding planners, they scheduled election-viewing parties (votes are counted over Zoom, by the National Labor Relations Board, or N.L.R.B.) and staged choreographed strikes. Their work as baristas made them adept at juggling tasks, making conversation, and responding to emotional cues - all essential for organizing."
In other words, Starbucks trained the guerrilla fighters who have now turned against it.
You can read the entire story here.
- KC's View:
Seems to me that the pendulum has moved, at least for the moment, to a place where even retailers that are progressive in their treatment of employees are being targeted. This is likely to create some challenging moments going forward, as retailers try to stay true to their values while dealing fairly but firmly with forces that they see as a threat to their viability.