We were absolutely thrilled to see Starbucks’ employees vote at one store in Buffalo, New York, to unionize. It’s a promising sign for workers across the country and an encouraging sign for anyone who believes in paying workers a fair wage.
Starbucks has an extraordinary business success story. They’ve pioneered innovation in terms of their food offerings and their community partnerships. For a company that’s nearly a hundred years old, they’ve shown incredible commitment to employee safety and economic justice.
And yet, they still routinely punish their frontline employees for exercising their constitutional rights to unionize, to join a union, and to bargain for a union. In response to the request for a vote, Starbucks’ CEO told his thousands of U.S. store workers that voting for the union would be “a violation of our company’s rules.”
But employees at one store in Buffalo learned that was not true, and they walked out in solidarity. A few minutes after the election began they informed Starbucks management that they would be joining the union and locking arms outside the store to express their collective power. They marched the rest of the way to the newly converted company store. With banners, chanting, and songs, they fulfilled their right to unionize. The store management company, Millennial Management, agreed to unionize the restaurant, furthering the workers’ right to collective bargaining.
As part of their collective power, the baristas at Starbucks will be able to bargain for a fair minimum wage, fair hours, and greater recognition of their unions. The joint action raised questions about whether the company’s harshness in reaction to a demand for worker self-determination means they actually support the rights of its most valued employees.
Starbucks shares some of the same values that we at Americans for Limited Government do. They oppose excessive government regulation, they believe in a transparent and honest government, and they support the right of voters to regulate themselves. They also value inclusiveness, dignity, fairness, and dignity, and believe in a strong national safety net. But so do their managers.
When we heard that employees at one Starbucks were going to vote for a union, we decided to provide information about what’s at stake in a labor dispute between a company and its employees, in support of their right to vote. We strongly support their right to unionize, and we believe that workers are the best source of ideas and solutions for a good company.
Founded by CEOs who believe in business-community cooperation, Starbucks is our friend. We believe we all win when we focus on keeping our customers happy, our workers employed, and our nation secure.
Starbucks is a good friend. With these types of allies, we can make strides towards a freer and fairer society. But the company has some way to go in this area. As we saw in the Buffalo store, Starbucks cannot leave its employees in the dark about the rules in place. If they are pro-union they should be pro-equality.
As Americans for Limited Government, we strongly support Starbucks. The company’s mission is worth supporting; as an employer of over 600,000 people we believe Starbucks can help lead the nation in the direction of dignity and fairness, and we stand with them in this fight.
Henry Silverman, Ph.D., is the Chair of Americans for Limited Government. He served as a Commissioner and Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 1980-1990, then was appointed to the National Labor Relations Board in 1993 by President Clinton.