The List: Seven good reads as the Starbucks union drive hits Columbus

The workers at a Downtown Starbucks announced an intent to unionize on Monday

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
The workers at a Downtown Columbus Starbucks announced their intent to unionize.

In December, workers at a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, voted to form a union, making it the first of more than 8,000 corporate Starbucks locations in the United States to do so. In the months since, the grassroots movement has gained momentum, finally reaching Columbus with Monday’s announcement that the baristas at the Starbucks located at 88 E. Broad St. Downtown had filed an intent to unionize. 

In a letter sent to Starbucks President and CEO Howard Schultz, which you can read in full here, the Columbus workers laid out their reasons for moving to form a union, highlighting a growing schism between a corporation that continues to rake in record profits and a customer-facing workforce often forced to live paycheck to paycheck — a divide the workers said has been worsened by COVID-19. 

As the pandemic stretched on, “service pay wages were rolled back immediately, labor was cut immensely, and safety protocols dwindled,” the workers wrote. “Partners — once thanked and praised for being ‘essential’ — were told to serve without regard for the safety of themselves and other customers.”

Moving forward, workers at the Broad Street Starbucks will at some point hold a union vote. If successful, the new union would then begin to negotiate a contract for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

In the leadup to the vote, here are a handful of worthwhile reads to learn more about the unionization push unfolding at Starbucks.

1. Eater published (and has continued to update) one of the better “here’s what you need to know” guides to the Starbucks union movement, breaking down everything from its roots to the corporate response, which has included charges that the company has engaged in union-busting tactics.

2. Eater also took a look at one bigger-picture view, breaking down the impact the Starbucks union push could have on food and farm workers.

3. Vox took an even more zoomed-out view of the labor landscape, exploring what the Starbucks union drive could potentially mean for workers everywhere. In spite of dwindling union membership, the piece notes that American approval of unions is actually at its highest point now since 1965.

4. The Washington Post spoke with a handful of the women and nonbinary workers leading the Starbucks union push.

5. If you’re looking for ways to support unionizing Starbucks workers, one of the more thorough answers I’ve come across can be found in the first response on this Reddit thread, made by a commenter who said they are a union organizer. Among the suggestions: Look for local events set up to support your Starbucks of choice and tip in cash because “100% of cash tips go directly to those of us who are fighting this fight.”

6. The Hill broke down the various ways that the usual “union avoidance” tactics deployed by Starbucks had failed amid the surging grassroots campaign.

7. Finally, Starbucks isn’t the only coffee chain whose employees have made moves to unionize. Defector has the fascinating story of Colectivo Coffee, a “deeply progressive” Midwestern chain that attempted to crush union efforts.