Big week to get you caught up on, heavy on the D-R-A-M-A! I’ve got shocking Starbucks court docs, a huge railroad vote, Biden targeting the gig economy, and the food industry deal that might change our lives forever. Let’s get into it.
Starbucks execs told manager to target pro-union workers: On Tuesday, Bloomberg dropped a bombshell courtesy of a Freedom of Information Act Request. In August, a Starbucks store manager testified to the National Labor Relations Board that executives directed him to target pro-union employees for disciplinary action. “She said go through her files,” David Almond said, according to the transcript. “She’s a long-term partner. I’m sure there’s something in there we can use against her.” The Bloomberg article is behind their paywall, so you can find the VICE write-up here.
Four Buffalo Starbucks stores go on strike: Alleging similar behavior, four stores in Buffalo, NY, went on strike on Wednesday:
TODAY FOUR BUFFALO UNION STARBUCKS STORES ARE ON STRIKE.— SBWorkersUnited (@SBWorkersUnited) October 12, 2022
In the span of one week, Starbucks fired multiple workers, wrote up workers for frivolous (and sometimes made up) reasons, and went on a dress code enforcement rampage to retaliate against workers.
Judge orders Starbucks to reinstate Kansas City workers: More reaping for Starbusters. On Wednesday, an NLRB judge ruled Starbucks broke Federal law by firing pro-union workers, unfairly enforcing its dress code rules, and asking police to disperse picketing workers. Starbucks must offer reinstatement to the four fired workers with back pay, and post a notice informing workers they broke the law and promise to not do so again. (Which, LOL.)
Apple to withhold benefits from unionized workers: Looks like Apple is up to the same bullshit. Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the company says workers at its unionized Towson, MD, store will have to negotiate for certain perks yet to be announced. Those perks are “said to include additional health plan benefits in some jurisdictions, funds to take educational classes and a free Coursera membership.”
Homegrown files for union election: In a guest rant for this fine publication on Tuesday, Homegrown workers announced their intent to file for a union election. This comes after the company refused to recognize its workers’ union since June, installed surveillance cameras in their delivery vans, refused to install AC in their stores, got shamed by the Seattle City Council, AND refused to offer their workers COVID pay (phew!).
UW staff goes on strike: The Stand reported that on Thursday, staff of the University of Washington Libraries and Press went on strike to force the school to the negotiating table after over a year of foot-dragging.
More railroad drama: This week, railroad maintenance workers rejected a new five-year contract, ratcheting up the chance of their own strike. Although the new offer to the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division included 24% raises and $5,000 bonuses, President Tony Cardwell said the contract didn’t go far enough to remedy quality of life concerns the workers have, including paid time off, sick time, and better working conditions for an understaffed workforce struggling to cover duties after the railroads eliminated almost one-third of their jobs over the past six years. The two sides will continue negotiating ahead of their mid-November deadline.
The magic word is “Union”: Dave Jamieson of HuffPost reported on an interesting situation at a CVS store in Orange County, California, where the workers started talking about unionizing and—surprise—they all got raises up to 37%. The new pay raises matched *exactly* what the company was paying workers at their unionized stores. Hmm!
New pod alert: Anne Helen Peterson, previously of BuzzFeed, announced Wednesday she’s releasing a new podcast about workplace issues that you are likely to relate to! Heavy-hitter guests include TV writer/producer and stand-up comedian Josh Gondelman:
I've spent the last year developing my podcast on the challenges of work and finally get to announce it: meet WORK APPROPRIATE, from @CrookedMedia. First ep drops Wednesday 10/26 pic.twitter.com/rFWvif0noZ— Anne Helen Petersen (@annehelen) October 12, 2022
Study: Union workers earn $1.3 million more: I know last week was Wonk Week, but I’ve got some data here you might find interesting. In a new study published by The ILR Review, workers who are a part of a union earn on average $1.3 million more in their lifetimes. Sure, but did their bosses earn record profits???
Student loan relief is on the way: Looks like applications open October 23. (I’ll remind you.)
Uber Eats pays $3.3 million for alleged labor violations: Uber Eats has agreed to pay a $3.3 million settlement for a litany of alleged violations. According to the press release from Seattle's Office of Labor Standards, Uber Eats reportedly “failed to pay premium pay when workers went to pick-up locations and the locations were closed or the customers had cancelled or already picked up their orders, and when workers picked up and delivered items from certain drug stores in Seattle. OLS also alleged that, for 14 days in 2022, the company paid drivers $0.025 per online order rather than the required $2.50 in premium pay due to a software glitch.” So, on top of all the rest, for two weeks, Uber accidentally paid its independent contractors 1/100th of what they were owed, and it took an investigation from the City of Seattle to get them to return $3,333,088.30 to 10,467 gig workers. Companies: quit doing this shit!!!
Biden looks to end gig economy: Fucking good. His administration’s new proposal looks to correctly classify workers who are "economically dependent" on the companies they “contract” with, the total number of which is debated. Death to the gig economy. Long live health insurance and working one job—instead of five freelance gigs and four side hustles—to pay your bills.
Big food gets bigger: Think grocery prices are going to come down? Think again. Kroger is buying Albertsons, creating one monster grocery chain. Seattle unions UFCW 7, UFCW 324, UFCW 367, UFCW 770, Teamsters 38, and UFCW 3000 issued a joint statement saying, in part, “The proposed merger of these two grocery giants is devastating for workers and consumers alike and must be stopped.” One giant grocery corporation being able to jack up food prices at will would be a nightmare. Bernie chimed in last night, pressing Biden to stop the deal:
At a time when food prices are soaring as a result of corporate greed, it would be an absolute disaster to allow Kroger, the 2nd largest grocery store in America, to merge with Albertsons, the 4th largest grocery store in America. The Biden Administration must reject this deal.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) October 14, 2022
What else: After threatening to strike during the All-Star Game this summer, concessions workers at Dodger Stadium won a $10 per hr minimum pay raise over the next two years. Speaking of baseball wins, Mariners retail workers joined UFCW 3000. Starbucks workers in Canyon Crossing in Fredericksburg, WA announced their intent to unionize. If you've got some spare cash, consider throwing a few bucks to the Starbucks workers up in Bellingham, who are striking after the company reportedly dropped COVID-19 benefits without bargaining. Jacobin ran a column about how unbelievably corrupt our country has become. On Monday, the New York Post discussed the Teamsters’ impending battle with UPS. And here's a contract tip for all you go-getters out there looking to join the latest tech startup.
Speaking of tips: Shoot me your tips, tricks, and labor goss here.
And a digestif, courtesy of the chef: The Mariners need all the help they can get. Perhaps we can summon the magic of a different time. A cringier time. Specifically, 2010. Folks, I present to you “My Oh My” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I know. Have a good weekend.