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Starbucks Workers Are in the Fight of Their Lives for a Contract

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There are still dozens of stores waiting for their elections, and more stores filing for election every week. These thousands of newly unionized workers are in the fight of their lives for a contract.

The company is fighting dirtier and dirtier all the time, from closing stores to firing more than 80 union leaders across the country to now filing suit at the National Labor Relations Board claiming that the Board itself is committing fraud by colluding with the union. Their campaign is getting more and more vicious.

[Corporate’s] theory of the campaign, in my mind, is to crush the momentum. They are counting on us not being able to continue to build and organize. They’re counting on the idea that there’s not going to be enough community solidarity to really stand up to their bullying, and that they’re going to be able to quash the campaign and wait it out and then decertify stores.

December 9 we’ll cross a year since the first stores voted for a union. The certification year ends at that point and the company can begin to run decert[ification] petitions. 

[Editors’ note: Under federal law, a union cannot be voted out, or “decertified,” within the first year of its having been certified. Often employers will stall on bargaining for a year so the decertification window opens, and covertly encourage workers to decertify the union at that point.] So we’re in the fight for our lives for a contract right now.

A National Voice

These workers have done a lot of work internally to build national structures so they are speaking powerfully in one voice to the company. There’s a national committee called the National Bargaining Committee, which is working hard to draft a set of bargaining demands. They’re going to bring it back down to the base [of workers] for revisions and then we’re going to introduce that same proposal at every store where we can get this company to bargain.

We’re going to ask the company to meet with the national bargaining committee. I’m assuming they’re going to say no. They want to bargain store by store. So workers are planning to coordinate with each other and put forward the same proposal over and over.

It’s going to take a hell of a lot of militant collective action and solidarity from the labor movement; community, student, and faith allies; and customers to move the needle at the bargaining table.

Pledge Creates a Rapid Action Network

That’s why we’re asking people to sign the No Contract, No Coffee pledge. What it says is we’re going to follow the lead of workers, and we’re going to support them in the way they’re asking for support. It’s our way of building a rapid action network for the campaign.

If a store in your community goes on strike, you’ll get a message over email or by text, whichever you prefer, saying, “Hey there’s going to be a picket line, show up in solidarity with those workers.” Or “We’re going to rally at the corporate office on this day.” Or “We have an action at the Mellody Hobson-owned Denver Broncos game.” [Hobson is the chair of the Starbucks board.] It’s a way to alert people about how they can support the campaign.

Sip-ins [where supporters gather in a store to drink coffee] are another way. Sometimes workers call for sip-ins to happen in the week before their election, to pump people up, or if they know there’s going to be a particular kind of union-busting in their store on that day. Some sip-ins have been effective in canceling [mandatory anti-union] captive-audience meetings.

There are lots of creative ways that customers are supporting picket lines [during strikes]. About 90 percent of picket lines have been successful at closing down the store. In some others, the company manages to get enough managers in the store to keep getting coffee out the window. But customers have supported in all kinds of creative ways, including finding ways to be disruptive in the drive-through line. These are not tactics devised by workers or the campaign at all, just things that customers are coming up with.

If you sign the pledge, the first thing we’ll ask you to do is to adopt a store. If you adopt a store, we’ll hook you up with one in your area that’s union, so you can find a way to support that store, and help create a system of aid for those workers.

Labor Day Plans

For Labor Day we’re really focused on having sip-ins at every single unionized or unionizing store. We’re going to try to do at least 300. Workers are also using that weekend to deliver petitions and hold marches on the boss. I would not be surprised if there are strike actions in protest of ULPs [unfair labor practice charges the union has brought to the NLRB] on that day or on that weekend.

We want to get 30,000 more signers on the No Contract, No Coffee pledge on Labor Day weekend. Because we know we’re going to need massive public support.

We have to bring a lot of economic pressure to bear on Starbucks. I think strikes are an important piece of that. But we need a hell of a lot of solidarity from allies in order to amplify the voices of workers at the stores that have organized.

This blog originally appeared at Labor Notes on August 25, 2022. Published with permission.

About the Author: Daisy Pitkin is the national field director for Starbucks Workers United. This blog is a transcription of her responses in an interview.


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Monkeypox Is a Workers’ Rights Issue

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As of early last week, over 11,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The virus that causes the disease, which many cities and towns have now declared a public health emergency, spreads through close personal contact. In certain cases it can reportedly also transmit through contact with surfaces infected people have touched. 

While there are still many unanswered questions regarding monkeypox, some troubling dynamics are already coming into clear view: The recommended quarantine period for those infected is far longer than that of Covid-19 cases. This means those who contract the virus will either have to take substantial time off the job — often not a viable option for those without paid sick leave — or risk going to work while infected.

The virus has been found to disproportionately impact members of the LBGTQ community, who are also disproportionately likely to be poor or working-class. The muddled rollout of the monkeypox vaccine has already created logjams in access, and, as a result, it appears poorer Americans are more likely to be unvaccinated, increasing the hazards to their health. 

Covid Set an Example

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the risks to workers from rapidly spreading communicable diseases became painfully obvious. In addition to contracting and dying from the virus at higher rates than the rest of the population, low-wage workers without union protections also often experienced employment consequences. Some reported that they were forced to work with active Covid infections, while others were fired for taking leave or expressing concern about Covid precautions.

If workers do contract monkeypox, according to CDC recommendations, they may need to isolate for as long as four weeks while waiting for rashes that result from the disease to resolve. But the reality is that many workers will not be able to take that time off of work. Only 56 percent of workers are eligible for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protections — and these do not require paid leave.

“If employers throughout the country were required, as a matter of law, to provide paid leave to every worker who contracts Covid, I believe we would have seen more of an emphasis on protecting workers by preventing transmission in the workplace,” Matthew Cortland, a senior fellow at Data for Progress, told In These Times.

In March 2020, Congress passed paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. However, it expired in December of that year, and was not universal. Many Democrats also advocated national paid leave in their campaigns, but have so far been unable to enact the policy. Congress could pass similar temporary leave legislation, or it could commit to investing in long-term paid leave — a policy originally included in the Build Back Better package but excluded from the Inflation Reduction Act which was signed by President Biden on Tuesday. 

In response to these developments, some states have proactively developed their own paid leave programs. And unions have pushed for them in contract negotiations as well. ?“A workforce that is constantly being reinfected with coronavirus, because of a lack of workplace mitigation measures, including, importantly, paid leave, is an unpredictable and unreliable workforce,” said Cortland.

The Issue of At-Will Employment

But paid leave isn’t the only problem. ?“The background rule of employment-at-will means that, even where these protections exist, workers feel vulnerable,” said Kate E. Andrias, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. Andrias is a coauthor of a 2021 report on just cause reform.

At-will employment, where workers can be fired for any reason so long as it doesn’t break the law, drives extreme precarity, especially for low-wage workers. This is because the risks of requesting time off for illness, complaining about working conditions, or reporting employers for wage, hour and safety violations are much higher. And, while labor organizing is a protected activity, employers can still develop pretexts for firing workers. Recent examples include Starbucks closing stores that were in the process of unionizing over ?“safety reasons,” and Amazon firing union organizer Chris Smalls after he spoke out about safety on the job.

Unionized workers, however, generally enjoy the protections of just cause in their collective bargaining agreements. Under just cause, employers must document and demonstrate reasons for employment termination, and workers have access to protections throughout the process, including a union representative in any disciplinary meetings. Just cause offers greater cover to workers who want to advocate in the workplace, while collective bargaining agreements offer other critical protections and benefits, often including paid leave. 

The bubbling outbreak of monkeypox illustrates that both paid leave and just cause are public health issues for workers and the people they interact with. And, as with Covid-19, the risks are higher for some workers than others. ?“Being immunocompromised and working in a public facing role that requires interaction with fomites, for example, in food service, is not sufficient to qualify for vaccination against monkeypox,” said Cortland.

Minorities’ Jobs and Health are at Risk

Disability and health status are not the sole risk factors. Members of the LGBTQ community, who are more likely overall to work in low-wage jobs, are at greater risk of contracting monkeypox — especially gay men, who have been prioritized for vaccines in some cities due to high numbers of cases in their communities. For those who cannot get vaccinated, though, going to work can become extremely stressful and potentially dangerous, even more so when employers don’t provide paid leave. 

Gay or straight, disabled or not, without just cause protections and paid leave, those workers may not feel comfortable speaking out — and may not be able to take time off if they get sick. Other workers could then contract the virus and take it home to vulnerable family members and communities. 

In the short term, unions can help secure key protections for workers facing isolation after infection or exposure, including building just cause and paid leave into the bargaining process. And right now, economic conditions are ripe for more organizing. ?“Low unemployment rates give workers more bargaining power,” said Andrias. ?“The best way for workers to increase their bargaining power is to organize with their coworkers and form unions.” 

The high cost of Covid-19 to human health and society at large shows that all workers need protections including paid leave and just cause to ensure they are able to stay safe, just like their white-collar, desk-bound colleagues did for nearly two years. 

As the federal government struggles to respond to monkeypox, Cortland said, ?“workers have largely been abandoned. Even when infectious, many are forced to go into work, further degrading their health and imminently endangering others.”

This blog was originally posted to In These Times on August 16, 2022. Reposted with permission.

About the Author: S. E. Smith is an essayist, journalist, and activist is on social issues, with credits in publications like The Guardian, Nerve, and VICE. 


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Thank You to Outten and Golden

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Outten and Golden, LLP, a law firm dedicated to employees’ rights, is sponsoring an upcoming event for Workplace Fairness. 

Next week, Workplace Fairness is hosting a panel event on climate change and workers’ safety. From 3 to 4 p.m. on August 31, the online panel will discuss the negative impact the global climate crisis has on workers, specifically people of color and workers earning low wages. 

Outten and Golden’s sponsorship helps make Workplace Fairness’ events possible, furthering workers’ interests. Wayne Outten, the president of Outten and Golden, co-founded Workplace Fairness and is currently its board chair. Outten voiced his support for the upcoming event.

“Outten and Golden has long supported Workplace Fairness and its mission of educating workers about their rights and of advocating for the rights of workers,” Outten said. “This program is a good example of such education and advocacy.”

Anyone interested in attending the upcoming panel event may register for it here. Workplace Fairness also greatly appreciates donations.

Workplace Fairness thanks Outten and Golden for its continued support. Sponsorships like these further Workplace Fairness’ efforts to advocate for workers’ rights.  


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How Managers Can Advocate for Their Warehouse

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The safety and well-being of office employees are often prioritized in the business world.
However, the protection of your blue-collar workers is just as important and should be at the
forefront of your advocacy efforts.

Every day, warehouse workers face occupational hazards like slips and falls, malfunctioning
equipment, using heavy materials, and much more. Making sure those workers are treated with
dignity and respect, and prioritizing their safety should be something you take seriously.

As a leader in your organization, you might wonder what you could be doing to ensure that your
company’s warehouse workers are getting the support they need. Let’s cover some things you
can do to advocate for those employees.

Advocate for Benefits

One of the best ways to advocate for your warehouse employees is to learn more about what
they really want. There’s often a sizable disparity between the benefits of in-office employees
and warehouse workers. Some of the basic benefits your blue-collar employees want include:

  • A company-matched retirement plan
  • Flexibility
  • Emotional and mental health programs
  • Career development opportunities

Making sure your warehouse workers feel respected and understood will help to increase
productivity
and loyalty to your company.

If your warehouse employees are interested in unionizing, don’t immediately try to shut down
those efforts. Instead, support them and work with them to create realistic negotiations and
expectations to bring to the heads of the company. You’re in a leadership position, but your
loyalty should remain with your workers, not against them. It’s far too common for warehouses
to underpay their employees in an effort to get “cheap labor.” If you notice that happening, stick
with your workers as they attempt to unionize and receive a fair salary and benefits.

Prioritize Safety

We talked about some of the potential risks of working in a warehouse above. Because of those
risks (and others), prioritizing the safety of your employees is a must.

Having safety procedures and preventative measures in place should be your first course of action. Follow this with proper training and ensuring every employee knows how to use the equipment correctly and follow all safety rules.

It’s also imperative to have the right safety equipment throughout the warehouse to remind your
employees how they can protect themselves. That includes things like:

  • Proper storage spaces
  • Signing and labels
  • Guardrails
  • First aid kits
  • Traffic visibility mirrors
  • Emergency wash stations

Don’t wait for an accident to happen to put these things in place. By setting up preventative
measures and prioritizing safety, you’re telling your warehouse workers that you’re actually
prioritizing them.

As a manager, you might not be able to change the way your entire company runs. However,
when you have warehouse workers under your care, you should be willing to do whatever it

takes to make sure they’re treated with the same respect as their office counterparts. Keep
these ideas in mind and don’t be afraid to advocate for change as necessary. Not only will your
workers appreciate you for it, but you could end up changing the entire course of your company
for the better.

About the Author: Dan Matthews is a contributor to Workplace Fairness. This blog is posted with the author’s permission.


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Yes, Abortion Rights Are a Union Issue 

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Alexandra Bradbury

Abortion: it’s a topic unions shy away from. The logic is, why go there? You might alienate conservative workers who otherwise share your workplace concerns.
And it’s true, you might — though the issue is not as divisive as the GOP makes it out to be. A solid 61 percent of U.S. adults is pro-choice. Among those aged 18-29, it’s 74 percent.

It’s good to see unions begin to overcome this fear and take a stand — because, contrary to the narrative, abortion is a labor issue.

On-the-Job Impacts

How so? For one thing, workers who get pregnant are penalized at work.

Pregnancy discrimination is very real. Many jobs make it tough to get light duty or accommodations. And parenthood brings the “mommy tax” — a lifetime loss of income for women who have children, thanks to stingy parental leave and unaffordable childcare.

Missed opportunities, resume gaps, reduced work hours — all these impinge on women’s equality at work, not to mention their union participation.

Labor must fight to change all that; even a wanted parenthood shouldn’t carry such steep penalties. But the current reality is that forced pregnancy will absolutely harm workers at work.

Collective Muscle

Then there are members’ needs beyond the workplace. As Stacy Davis Gates reminded us in her talk at this year’s Labor Notes Conference, workers are not just workers — we are mothers, daughters, tenants, immigrants, and more.

Unions fight for our dignity and autonomy on the job, but those human needs don’t end when we clock out. Members need abortions; their friends, family, and neighbors need them too. About 1 in 4 women eventually gets one.

Unions at their best are a uniquely powerful fighting force for the whole working class. They’re organized, they have budgets and knowhow, and they have the leverage that can win big — the power to strike, a power that can take down governments and transform society.

Our sisters and siblings (trans people also get pregnant!) need us in this fight, not just as individuals, but as organized labor.

Common Enemies

The villains attacking our right to abortion care should look familiar to workplace activists, too. They’re the same ones pushing to lower our wages, weaken our unions, and speed up our work.

Even many of the corporations that leaped to announce new abortion travel benefits for employees were soon revealed as donors to the very groups that had pushed Dobbs v. Jackson to the Supreme Court. These were groups like the Republican Attorney Generals Association, the Federalist Society, and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Most employers aren’t in it for the abortion restrictions; their goal is deregulation and union-busting. But the effect is the same.

The Right to Mom

There’s another side to the coin. Unions are also needed in the fight for the right to have children when we do want them.

A more expansive term than abortion rights is “reproductive justice.” The grassroots group SisterSong defines it as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”

Unions can bargain for the things working parents need — like equitable wages, paid parental leave, and childcare benefits. The transit union in Portland, Oregon, just won a “lactation van”; when a bus driver needs to pump breastmilk, the van comes to meet her.

We can also fight for a stronger safety net that offers all parents and kids the resources they need — like Medicaid, welfare, food assistance, childcare, and affordable housing.

SisterSong’s vision evokes many labor demands past and present: the right to a living wage, to health and safety on the job, to gender-affirming health care benefits. At their core, the labor and reproductive rights movements are both fighting for the same thing: the right to control our own lives.

This blog originally appeared at Labor Notes. Posted with permission.

About the Author: Alexandra Bradbury is the editor of Labor Notes, and Sarah Hughes is a staff writer.


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Every Boss Has a Weak Spot. Find and Use It.

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Steel production in the late 1800s used to require one crucial step: a 20-minute process called the “blow” that removed impurities, strengthening the metal. It was not unheard of for union members to go to the supervisor at the start of the blow and demand that some important grievance be resolved.

According to old-timers, it was amazing what the company could accomplish in those 20 minutes. These workers had found their employer’s vulnerability — and they used it to make the workplace safer and more humane.

Think about where your employer is vulnerable. For some companies it might be their logo or their image, which they have spent millions of dollars cultivating. For others it might be a bottleneck in the production process, or a weakness in their just-in-time inventory system.

Whistle While You Work

At a Fortune 500 truck factory, supervisors were ruthless and degrading. Discipline was arbitrary and unjust. At the monthly union meeting one worker noted that they were all being “railroaded.”

A few weeks later, 2,000 plastic whistles shaped like locomotives arrived at the local. The instructions were simple: whenever you can see a supervisor on the shop floor, blow your whistle.

At first, whistles were going off all over. But by the morning break the plant floor was quiet. Not a single supervisor dared to show his face.

The next day in contract bargaining, the employer refused to bargain until the whistles were removed. The bargaining team noted the company’s statements on refusing to bargain, and asked for a break to go call the Labor Board.

Bargaining resumed immediately, with positive results.

Lunch to Rule

On a military base, aircraft maintenance workers would happily interrupt their lunch in order to deal with urgent problems. But in return they had an understanding that, once the problem was solved, they would go back to their sandwiches even though the lunch period had ended.

The situation was mutually acceptable for several years — until a new supervisor came along. We all know how that is. Had to prove himself. Show who’s boss. Etc.

Steve Eames, an international rep for the Boilermakers union, explained that the new supervisor insisted that workers take their lunch between 12:00 and 12:30, period.

“So the steward said, ‘Okay, we’ll play by the rules,’” Eames remembers. The maintenance workers had previously eaten at a lunch table in the work area. But now, when 12 o’clock came, they left and went to a fast-food restaurant on the base. For three or four days they all went as a group, leaving the shop unattended.

One day a plane came in during the half-hour lunch period. No one was there to help bring the plane in, or to check it out. The supervisor had to park the plane by himself.

“The boss went and talked to the steward, and the steward said, ‘That’s our time, we’re at lunch,’” said Eames. “‘You got what you wanted.’”

The workers went out for lunch for a couple more days, and then they ended what we might call “lunch to rule.” “They didn’t want to file a grievance,” says Eames, “because the company would have won on the basis of contract language.

“Without anything in writing, it went back to the way it had been before. It empowered the guys. It told the supervisor, we’ll be a little flexible if you’ll be flexible.”

Keep the Boss Off Balance

Managers like routine. They like to know that what happened yesterday will happen today and that no one is thinking too hard about it. You can make them nervous simply by doing something different, even something normal that would be unthreatening to the non-managerial mind. When they have to keep guessing where the next shot is coming from, you have the upper hand.

“The corporate culture is not a creative culture,” says Joe Fahey, a former Teamster leader, “and we need to look at that as an opportunity.

“I used to bargain with Smuckers,” Fahey recalls. “We decided to do things that would freak them out. Factory life is very predictable. The workers decided to take their breaks at the railroad tracks, instead of at the same table and the same bench that they did every day. It was easy for the workers to do, but it was scary for management. They are more easily scared than we realize.”

15-Minute Strike

Pennsylvania social workers figured out how to catch management off guard. During negotiations with the state, spokesman Ray Martinez said, “we wanted an activity that would irritate the boss, educate the public, and at the same time get the members psyched up. We decided that we would all take our 15-minute breaks at the same time.”

The union used its phone trees to call members at home. “At the agreed date and time,” Martinez says, “all of our members would get up and walk out of the office. This meant that clients in the office, phone calls, and so on would be placed on hold. In other words, all activity ceased.

“This served a couple of purposes. First, management and clients would get a feel for what it would be like without our services if we were to go on strike. Secondly, we, the members, would be outside of the worksite having outdoor shop meetings and updating the workers on the latest on the negotiations.

“While this was going on, we had picket signs asking drivers to honk their horns to show us their support. The beauty of it all was that this was perfectly legal, so there was nothing management could do.”

At the end of the 15-minute break, everybody went back inside and went back to work.

This blog originally appeared on July 28, 2022 at Labor Notes. Learn about workers’ rights and advocacy at Workplace Fairness.

About the Authors: Alexandra Bradbury, Jane Slaughter, and Mark Brenner are Labor Notes contributors. This article is excerpted from Labor Notes’ book, “Secrets of a Successful Organizer.”


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The New ‘Lavender Scare’ Is an Attack on the Working Class

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Maximillion Alvarez

Things are getting very dark in this country, and it’s likely going to get worse before it gets better.

At every turn — as collective society breaks down, as the ruling class continues to rob us blind, as humanity barrels towards climate catastrophe — working people are being encouraged to turn on each other and to see certain groups of their fellow workers as the enemy.

From the demonization and increasingly violent attacks against LGBTQIA+ people, to an extremist-dominated Supreme Court preparing to strip away queer people’s right to marry, to legislatures around the country working to eliminate trans people’s right to exist, we must respond to these assaults on our neighbors and coworkers with the same spirit of solidarity that gives life to labor’s eternal message: an injury to one is an injury to all.

In a special and urgent podcast episode, we speak with Gabbi Pierce and Martha Grevatt about how far the labor movement has come in defending the rights of LGBTQIA+ workers, how far we still have to go, and what role the labor movement can and must play in fighting for dignity and equality for all.

Gabbi Pierce is an organizer with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), co-chair of Pride at Work — Twin Cities, and she is the first transgender person to serve on the Minnesota AFL-CIO General Board. Martha Grevatt is a retired autoworker and member of the United Auto Workers (UAW); she formerly served as Executive Board member for UAW Locals 122 and 869 and was a founding member of Pride at Work.

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on August 1, 2022 and references a podcast that may be heard at its website. The full transcript is posted to the website as well. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Maximillion Alvarez is editor-in-chief at the Real News Network and host of the podcast Working People.


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Starbucks Holds Life-Saving Benefits Over Trans Workers’ Heads

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Zane McNeill

OVERLAND PARK, KAN.—Maddie Doran worked at the Starbucks on 75th Street and Interstate 35 for 10 months, “not only to pay the bills,” she says, but because the company’s health insurance covers gender-affirming surgery. Many health plans exclude gender-affirming care, despite the fact that the medically necessary procedures can be lifesaving—Harvard research shows gender-affirming care can significantly reduce suicidal ideation, for example. 

And without Starbucks’ health plan, Doran’s facial feminization surgery would cost her $42,000.

But after Doran joined a union campaign at the store this winter, the benefit “was waved over my head” as an anti-union scare tactic, she says, with one store manager privately telling her, “You’re here for the gender-affirming surgeries and I’m worried about you [losing that benefit and] becoming the minority [in contract negotiations], because ultimately the union decides.”

An emailed statement from Starbucks to In These Times said that the company would “bargain in good faith” but could make no “guarantees about any benefits,” asserting that “even if we were to offer a certain benefit at the bargaining table, a union could decide to exchange it for something else.” 

Losing a benefit because of your union is extremely unlikely. As Katie Barrows, president of the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union, explains: “Employees form unions to improve their workplaces. Additionally, when employees organize, they are the union, which means they negotiate and vote to approve their union contract—union members are not going to vote for a contract that leaves them worse off.… I’ve only seen union contracts drastically improve workers’ pay, benefits and working conditions.” 

Before Doran could get the surgery, however, she lost the health coverage anyway. She and two other outspoken union supporters, Michael Vestigo and Alydia Claypool, were fired in the same week. The store accused Doran of stealing money; she denies the charge and believes the three were targeted as retaliation.

As a union organizing wave has pulled in more than 300 Starbucks stores so far, workers have alleged egregious union-busting tactics by the company, including intimidation, retaliatory firings and scheduling reductions. Interim CEO Howard Schultz announced in April that a new benefits expansion will exclude union stores.

In at least one other store, as reported in Bloomberg and Them, managers specifically threatened that unionizing could jeopardize health benefits for trans employees. These alleged threats prompted Workers United to file unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), on behalf of employees at Doran’s store and an Oklahoma City location.

Doran says her firing represents how gender-affirming healthcare can be used as a cudgel against unionization efforts. Retaliatory store closures or firings can especially hurt trans employees who rely on hard-to-find benefits. 

Doran and her coworkers publicly announced their union campaign in January and held a walk out and strike in March to protest unfair working conditions. At one point, Doran says, managers tried to throw employees off the grounds of a local hotel where they’d been called for a mandatory anti-union meeting. When a group of workers gathered outside after the meeting, Doran says, a Starbucks manager told them, “You all need to go,” and then complained to the hotel front desk, who said the police had been called.

Doran, Vestigo and Claypool all made pro-union statements in the media, and all were terminated in April. The NLRB filed a complaint against Starbucks in May, alleging the firings were retaliatory, and Claypool has since been reinstated. 

The union ballots came back a week after the three were fired. The vote was 6–1 in favor of a union, adding Overland Park to the more than 200 Starbucks locations that have unionized so far this year.

Transgender people are unemployed at a rate three times higher than the national average, according to a 2015 National Center for Transgender Equality study, and face a greater risk of underemployment and poverty than other workers. They are subject to higher rates of hiring bias, on-the job discrimination and firings, greater wage inequity and unequal access to healthcare.

While Starbucks’ 2018 rollout of transgender health benefits was celebrated by LGBTQ advocates and media platforms, some workers at individual stores have reported trans-discriminatory practices. In 2018, Maddie Wade, a transgender employee, sued Starbucks for discrimination, alleging her manager repeatedly misgendered her. In a 2020 survey by hospitality union Unite Here of workers at airport Starbucks stores, which are run by a subcontractor, at least four employees reported discrimination such as “offensive and transphobic comments from managers.” A 2020 BuzzFeed story details three workers at different Starbucks stores being outed, hitting snags accessing gender-affirming benefits and being deadnamed. 

“Starbucks will posture that they care about queer people,” says Doran, “and they will posture that they care about any minority group, but the second you try to have a democratic workplace or speak up for yourself or don’t let them bully you—suddenly you’re public enemy number one, and they completely shut you out.” 

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: Author’s name is Zane McNeill. Zane is the founder of Roots DEI Consulting and Policy and is comanager of the labor rights group Rights for Animal Rights Advocates.


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Working people are so screwed: Rents spike and minimum wage hits its lowest value since 1956

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Laura Clawson

The average wage needed for someone to afford a market-rate one-bedroom apartment rental in this country is $21.25 per hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. It’s not hard to see the problem here.

Both sides of the equation are responsible: The rent is too damn high and the pay is too damn low.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual report on housing costs, the market rate for a modest two-bedroom home requires an hourly wage of $25.82 for affordability, defined as 30% of income on housing costs. Across the entire country, “In approximately 9% of counties or county equivalents (including Puerto Rico), the renter wage is below the federal, state, or local minimum wage.” In the continental U.S., Arkansas is the winner, requiring just 1.4 full-time minimum wage jobs to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

On the rent-is-too-damn-high front, “Across the country, rents rose 18% between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022. These rent increases have been widespread: out of 345 metropolitan counties, all but two have seen a rise in rental prices since 2021.” Those increases have hammered people who were barely making it month to month, already paying well over the 30% of income considered affordable for housing. Some interviewed in the NLIHC report are now paying 80% of their household income to remain housed.

Nationally, more than 40% of people are not paid enough to afford a one-bedroom apartment, and nearly 60% are not paid enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

The burden of high housing costs falls disproportionately on Black and Latino renters, the report notes: “White workers at the bottom of the white income distribution earn over one dollar more per hour than Black and Latino workers at the bottom of their respective income distributions. Among Black workers, a Black person at the 20th percentile of wages earns $2.30 less per hour than a white worker at the same percentile. A Latino worker at the 20th percentile of wages earns $2.05 less than a white worker at the same percentile.” 

On the pay-is-too-damn-low front, the minimum wage, which has not increased since 2009, is now worth less than at any time since 1956. The Economic Policy Institute’s Dave Kamper put that in context:

The United States must invest in affordable housing and rental assistance. It must increase the minimum wage—even in the states where it’s currently the highest. And that means Republicans cannot be allowed to keep standing in the way. 

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: Author’s name is Laura Clawson. Laura is assistant managing editor for Daily Kos.


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