One way to improve workplaces: Coffee

Eversince the Starbucks location in Buffalo, N.Y., shocked the corporate world in Nov. 2021 by being the first unionized Starbucks since the 1980s, 60 more starbucks location have filed for a union election in the U.S.

“We were watching Buffalo do this. We were like, ‘Okay, how do we get started?’” said Joseph Thompson, a shift supervisor at the Ocean & Water Starbucks in Santa Cruz, Calif. who is helping lead the California Starbucks organizing efforts.

Two locations in Buffalo, New York were the first to start the movement, but now more than 60 locations in 19 other states have joined in to create a snowball effect of other locations filing to have a union vote.

“The main reason why [we filed for a union election] is obviously wages, but second is safety,” Thompson said. “The last, major reason, is having a voice. Having 30 people say something is a lot easier than one or two people.”

Unions allow you to join with your co-workers to gain things such as the 40-hour work week, weekends, paid holidays, paid time off and so many other rights. Unfortunately, unions have historically been on a downward trend since the peak in the 1970’s, reaching a national low of 10.3 percent of all workplaces in 2019.

“It’s definitely like a combined movement of workers coming together and then having a union support them on what they’re doing,” Thompson said.

Having your unionized workplace protects you from being singled out and makes sure that someone has your back when it comes to the attempts from higher management to silence dissent. Collective bargaining does more than make sure you are heard; it can make sure the profits you help generate are shared with other employees, besides the upper level management.

“I think most baristas agree to be with a company that’s making $20 billion and all this crazy profit,” Thompson said. “They can definitely pay the baristas more and have the ability to actually staff their stores and provide safe working conditions.”

Despite the United States being impacted by a global pandemic, corporations are seeing record-breaking profit margins from the 2021 fiscal year, but very little of this profit trickles down to their workers in the form of wages.

A student barista contracted under Aramark Corporation, prepares a specialty iced drink for WT students during a drink rush in the Jack B. Kelley Student Center.

Reddit and other social media influences are helping the younger generations teach themselves about the work of collective bargaining. Reddit’s anti-work subreddit has more than 1.7 million subscribers and has been used to help workers gain access to information around organizing their workplaces.

“If you look at the Starbucks Reddit, it’s funny,” Thompson said. “The second post is “How Do You Organize,” and it goes in a step by step process.”

Generation Z is known as the most depressed generation and is contributing to the great resignation. This rejection of the past employment practices have further stretched the limits of what are socially accepted as standard business.

“It’s been absolutely amazing and all these workers are Generation Z,” Thompson said. “It’s definitely a generation that supports unions and knows that they have power.”

If you support the work Starbucks baristas are doing to organize their workplaces, try ordering your next coffee with the name “union strong” or “union yes.”