Starbucks employees cause a ‘latte’ ruckus


Starbucks Baristas intend to unionize in Wisconsin, Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Lucinda Lietz, Features Editor

   Across the United States, many Starbucks employees are unionizing. A group called Starbucks Workers United has helped organize 200+ stores with 10,600+ union supporters in solidarity. Starbucks Workers United (SWU) is a group working with Workers United Upstate to organize workplaces across the country. It is rare to see unions in the coffee industry since baristas tend to be overworked and underpaid. SWU believes that if Starbucks employees and stores unionize, they may see a change in policies.

   A union is when workers come together to advocate for things they care about like fair wages, consistent scheduling, affordable and available health care, as well as job security. It means that employees have a voice in their workplace. 

   “We respect our partners’ right to organize but believe that they would not find it necessary given our pro-partner environment,” Starbucks states in response to the union forming.  Many employees disagree with this and believe that a union is necessary and the only way for change to occur. 

   “The only way to have those resolved in the future is having a union, having democracy in the workplace,” says Brian Murray, a Starbucks barista in Buffalo. 

    North Carolina is a right-to-work state, which means that the strength of unions is greatly limited. Although this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any unions in North Carolina, in fact, there are 385 active labor unions. This may seem like a large number, but compared to states without right-to-work laws, it is minuscule. 

   Joining a union is beneficial in many ways, including earning higher wages and having the power to negotiate better working conditions. According to the Utility Workers Union of America, “On average, union workers’ wages are 28 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts.” 

   Starbucks Workers United continues to hold union organizing drives and stand for democracy in the workplace.