Starbucks workers across 14 states launch historic unionization bid in a single day

"It's important that we're recognized as people rather than profit machines."


In a remarkable display of solidarity and collective action, Starbucks workers from 21 stores spanning 14 states have made a bold move to unionize, marking the most significant single-day filing in the history of Starbucks Workers United (SWU). This unprecedented wave of unionization efforts stretches from the bustling streets of Long Island, New York, to the vibrant community of San Jose, California, and touches down in states like Arkansas, Colorado, and Texas, among others.

The unionization drive is fueled by a litany of grievances that have long plagued Starbucks employees. In a compelling joint letter addressed to CEO Laxman Narasimhan, representatives from each of the 21 stores laid bare the challenges they face daily. These challenges range from chronic understaffing and reduced hours to wages and benefits that fall short of meeting their needs. “We have worked through violent threats from customers, unsafe weather conditions, and a global pandemic,” the workers stated, highlighting the stark contrast between their unwavering commitment and the company’s insufficient support.

Starbucks Workers United, rallying behind the workers’ cause, issued a stern rebuke of the coffee giant’s response to the unionization efforts. The union criticized Starbucks for its steadfast refusal to engage in good-faith bargaining, despite some stores having been recognized by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for over two years. “A company that truly cares about its workers would cut the union-busting and bargain in good faith already,” SWU remarked, signaling a call to action for Starbucks to acknowledge and address its employees’ demands.

The backdrop to this burgeoning movement is a series of legal confrontations that have seen Starbucks accused of multiple violations of federal labor laws. According to SWU, the company has engaged in a concerted anti-union campaign, resulting in hundreds of alleged legal infractions over the past two years. This claim is supported by a staggering number of NLRB administrative law judges’ findings, which have ruled against Starbucks in 48 out of 49 cases, spotlighting the company’s contentious stance on labor rights.

In a twist that underscores the broader implications of Starbucks’ labor disputes, the company has joined forces with other corporations facing their own unionization challenges, such as SpaceX, Trader Joe’s, and Amazon. Together, they have contested the constitutional validity of the NLRB’s structure, a move that could have profound repercussions for the labor movement at large.

Amidst this legal maelstrom, the voices of individual Starbucks workers resonate with a clarity that cuts through the corporate rhetoric. Baristas like Lizzie Harlow from Sulphur, Louisiana, and Alex Taylor from Madison, Wisconsin, have stepped forward to share their personal experiences and aspirations for a more equitable workplace. Their stories underscore the fundamental human desire for recognition, respect, and fair treatment in the workplace.

This groundswell of unionization at Starbucks is not an isolated phenomenon but part of a larger trend of labor organizing sweeping across some of America’s most recognizable companies. From Amazon to Trader Joe’s, workers are mobilizing for better pay, secure hours, and dignified working conditions, signaling a pivotal moment in the contemporary labor movement.

As this chapter in Starbucks’ history unfolds, the path forward is marked by a demand for accountability, transparency, and genuine collaboration between the company and its workforce. In the words of a Starbucks barista involved in the unionization efforts, “It’s important that we’re recognized as people rather than profit machines.”


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Ruth Milka started as an intern for NationofChange in 2015. Known for her thoughtful and thorough approach, Ruth is committed to shedding light on the intersection of environmental issues and their impact on human communities. Her reporting consistently highlights the urgency of environmental challenges while emphasizing the human stories at the heart of these issues. Ruth’s work is driven by a passion for truth and a dedication to informing the public about critical global matters concerning the environment and human rights.