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#fgf Don't Mourn/ORGANIZIE

Hello Fellow Political Stonecutters,

Happy Friday, and welcome to another installment of Feel Good Fridays brought to you by #UPM, where we highlight stories of political and social victories in the hope they can act as seeds of inspiration which bear further success down the line.

This week we will be highlighting the exciting progress workers are making unionizing at Starbucks. The growing wave of successful union votes started in Buffalo in late 2021, where young workers joined forces with Workers United from the SEIU. Despite Starbucks public persona as an “ethical corporation,” workers organizing for better conditions were forced to endure a sustained anti-union campaign that included retaliatory store closures, oppressive managerial oversight from Starbucks corporate, and wide-spread anti-union messaging. In the face of this withering assault, Buffalo Starbucks workers persevered and two stores successfully voted to unionize this past December.

With hundreds of thousands of employees and many thousands of locations across the country many readers might ask if this was really such a big deal. How can three stores unionizing in a mid-sized city pose any real threat to the exploitative practices of a behemoth like Starbucks? If nothing else, the vehemence of Starbucks’ union-busting efforts show they felt it was important to stop even a single store from unionizing. Only a few months out from the initial Buffalo votes we are beginning to see why.

Winning changes the landscape of what others believe is possible, and can inspire them to take action, where before they would have remained passive. From the initial two stores in Buffalo, unionization drives are popping up across the country, and more locations are finding success! In just the past couple of months four other locations have voted to form a union, including most recently in Mesa, Arizona. Even more exciting, about 130 other locations across multiple states have filed petitions for unions. While many of the stores the union has filed to represent are in states with strong pro-labor histories, including Michigan, New York, California and Washington, elections will also be held at locations in states with low unionization rates, such as Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, as well as the aforementioned Arizona.

After decades of losses, these are signs the tide is beginning to turn in the fight over worker rights and representation. The road ahead, however, will be long and arduous even in the best-case scenario. The current number of Starbucks locations filing petitions for unionization remains only a small fraction of their 9,000+ stores, and zooming out further, union membership statistics from the Department of Labor suggest only 1.2% of workers in the sector belong to a union, the lowest of any area of the economy. We should not be discouraged, however, at the long struggle in front of us. It is clear we have many allies in the cause who merely need to be given the hope that change is possible.

Fundamentally, unions are about organizing people with common cause to create economic power blocks which can stand up to corporate behemoths where the individual could be crushed or ignored. If that sounds familiar, it’s because this dovetails with the kind of economic people power #UPM is building across the nation. These unionization drives are bright spots amidst the darkness, helping to light the way towards a more equitable future if we can only grow these seeds of success. By combining the unique leverage of labor with a united citizenry consciously wielding its economic power each week, we can build a movement that challenges the corporate oligarchy and makes these victories for the people the rule, not the exception.

Have a great weekend!


Jacob Kravetz and Barrie Friedland

"When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stone-cutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet, at the hundred and first blow it would split in two and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before." - Jacob Riis

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