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A grande victory for Starbucks workers
When I'm just employees of Starbucks, I mean, we are Starbucks.
It's today explained I'm New York King, and actually employee is not really a word Starbucks
The term of art for a Starbucks worker is partner.
Being a partner, that's not just a word.
It's a real sense of ownership.
I've had so many opportunities to grow and I felt nurtured in that partnership.
If you want to be part of something really big, this is the place to do it.
It's like, okay, you're going to call me a partner.
Like, I'm going to make myself a partner.
Like, let's do it.
Let's be partners.
Today, how Starbucks partners started calling the company out and forming a partnership
of their own.
Ronnie Mola, you're a senior data reporter at Recode from Fox, and for the last couple of months
you have been talking to a lot of baristas.
What have you been up to?
So I've been talking to tons and tons of baristas.
For some reason, they all seem to be 22 years old.
I've talked to more 22 year olds now than I've done since I was 22.
And we're seeing this unprecedented wave of unionization happening at Starbucks, you know,
the nationwide coffee chain.
Already a whole bunch of Starbucks have voted to unionize.
And in the coming weeks and months, something like 160 more are slated to vote.
This is notable because it's a big widely known corporation.
Everyone knows what Starbucks is.
And because it's happening in food service, where you don't see a lot of unions.
The push for unions is a relatively recent development.
Starbucks is a 50 year old company before the union organizing began in the last year.
So what kind of relationship did Starbucks have with its employees?
So Starbucks is actually known for having a pretty good relationship with its employees.
Starbucks covers $20,000 for IVF and related medication for all eligible employees.
It's been offering health insurance for years.
And that's something that's just virtually unvertive still in food service.
So it's just been part of what we are that if you work here and you've put in the time where
you're going to get the benefits that make your full partner.
You know, they call their employees partners.
It was generally considered and perceived to be a good relationship.
And as I understand it, there's another thing that appeals to many of the 22 year olds
that you were interviewing, which is that the company's politics are progressive.
Yeah, I was a little bit exaggerating, not all of the more 22 plenty of them were in their 30s.
But yeah, Starbucks is a progressive company.
I don't believe the primary objective or the only objective of a for profit company is to make a profit.
You know, they talk about things like LGBTQ rights.
Where somebody at a shareholder meeting asks you to maybe soften your position on marriage
equality and gay rights.
And you essentially said, if you think you can make a better return, go buy something else.
If we employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace the versus the whole world.
Hi, gay, happy Pride Month.
We are sashing away with deals.
They talk about single origin, coffee beans, you name it, and that progressiveness seems
sort of attract progressive workers.
People want to work in a place that's progressive because they're progressive.
And you know, it's sort of this circular relationship.
You've got a relatively transient workforce.
Many of them are young.
These are not the type of people who ordinarily in this country would have gotten together
and formed a union, but something changed.
So in one of the Buffalo Starbucks back in 2019, a couple of the buriesa started talking
You know, they started seeing the dissonance between the companies progressive politics and
what was actually happening a lot that had to do with their wages and their ability
to be fired and their benefits.
It was all sort of talk for a while and then the pandemic happened.
Starbucks is making a major shift to adapt to the COVID 19 pandemic.
The company is closing up to 400 Starbucks locations for a while.
For a while, they were out of work and then they come back and people who were buriesa
become frontline workers.
All of a sudden, their job is inherently dangerous.
They have to tell people to put on masks.
Back in June 4th, the two entered the Starbucks out of West Avenue, neither one wearing
It wouldn't employee approach the two men.
It asked them to put a mask on, one man punched the victim in the face.
They have to enforce vaccine mandates in some places.
And the job just gets really rough.
A lot of them get sick.
As most of us know, there was the great resignation.
It was hard to hire people last year.
So you have this tougher work environment where you're dealing with the dangers of the
pandemic and they're not necessarily staffing as much as they should considering businesses
So they're working really hard.
And they feel like the company is not giving them adequate protections.
Thomas used to be a good company.
They used to treat their workers with respect and throughout the pandemic.
We have seen them disrespect workers over and over.
There was definitely a little resentment on behalf of these workers who had to go in.
They're saying, you know, the company started rolling back mask mandates and a lot of other
A little too fast, a little too brazenly, you know, for corporate members who were still
working from home at the time while these young people had to go in and be frontline
When did the first Starbucks stores decide to form a union?
And how did that process go?
So they started trying to unionize in earnest in the spring of 2021.
The original Buffalo buristas who were talking about this started reaching out to different
partners all around the Buffalo area.
That's a little bit easier in a city because you could often sub in for someone at a nearby
A lot of trade off with employees going to one place and another.
And then, you know, they sort of get a critical mass by the summer of 2021, at which
point they think they have enough supporters.
They also think that corporate might have gotten wind of it.
So they go public with their intent to unionize in August of 2021.
Next tonight, a group of Buffalo buristas taking on one of the world's largest coffee
companies and catching the attention of the national media.
That gives them a little bit more protections, you know, if they're known to be unionizing
they get the benefit of labor law.
And then Starbucks pushes back and they push back heavily.
They send lots and lots of support managers to the Buffalo area.
A lot of the demands that the Starbucks workers had, you know, that they were understaffed
or they didn't have enough PPE was immediately taken care of.
They were like, see, we could fix things.
You don't need a union.
They also start doing things like captive audience meetings.
That's when they tell you while you're on your shift, hey, this is why you shouldn't
join our union.
Mm, importantly, Starbucks union decided that they wanted to vote on a store by store
It's a lot easier to keep a relationship when you have 15, 20, 30 people and you've
talked to them directly and you know what they're going through as opposed to trying
to organize on a big regional or national basis because you don't have those close relationships.
It's in the best interest of a union to organize on a smaller basis.
They have a better chance of unionizing.
The NLRB, the governing body that oversees Union said, okay, yeah, you guys could do
a store by store.
Then in December 2021, history made in Buffalo, New York, Starbucks workers at the Elwood
Avenue location voted to unionize.
They had three votes in Buffalo and two out of the three ended up voting to unionize.
So there are thousands of Starbucks stores across the country.
Three of them hold union votes and then all of a sudden it's like the dominoes fall.
Looking to unionize, that's the goal of employees at a Mr. Starbucks, they say.
There's a new push to unionize Starbucks employees across the state of Missouri.
Yeah, we told you about the efforts here in the St. Louis area.
Well, now the union movement is coming to the Kansas City area.
These employees at the Astoria Boulevard Starbucks have become the first in Queens to
file for a union election.
Why is that?
I talked to a lot of these original Starbucks workers and they said as soon as it was
in the national media, as soon as people from Starbucks around the country saw that this
was possible, you know, it just sort of planted the idea that, oh, wait, we could
Oh, wait, these are the problems that they have over across the country in Buffalo.
They just got tons and tons of inbound emails.
They had a website.
They're all on social media.
They just got tons and tons of people reaching out to them being like, hey, how do we do
I was told by one of the union leaders that once Seattle voted to unionize, there's
a store in Seattle, which is the hometown of Starbucks, just that night, you know, he
got 30 contacts about unionizing.
So we have yes votes in Buffalo.
We have unions then form.
Have the unions achieve the changes in working conditions that these workers want it?
What's different now?
You know, it's like sort of the most cinematic part, like, okay, they've, they've gotten
They go in, they vote, they beat the big corporation.
But just because you've unionized doesn't mean that you get the benefits of a union.
Now they actually have to negotiate a contract.
And that is a really tough thing to do.
The contract is the document that says, okay, these are the benefits you are going to get.
Here's the floor on wages.
Here are the sort of health benefits that you get.
We can't fire you without just cause.
That sort of thing.
All of that stuff has to be in the contract and they don't have contracts yet.
They have to work with the company to create a contract and negotiate what they want.
And that's really hard to do given current labor laws.
The company is supposed to bargain in good faith, but there is no real teeth behind the NLRB's
power to make them do so.
And there's nothing forcing companies to actually agree to the contract.
So they've got a big, difficult road ahead of them in order to get their contract.
How long do contracts usually take to sign?
So they could take anywhere from six months to never.
I saw a stat.
It depends on which data set you're looking at, but something like 30% of unions never reach
a contract, or at least not after a few years.
And by that point, you know, they lose a lot of steam.
A lot of people who are originally they're unionizing, maybe have left.
And it's sort of done.
So it's really important that they do get a contract.
So part of the impetus for all of this is that you have a workforce that is relatively
You have young people who decided to unionize who now may be dealing with contract
and quotations for years, and yet they don't expect to be at Starbucks forever.
Do you think that the workers who started this movement will end up seeing any of the benefits?
A lot of them, I spoke to, you know, I don't know if they're going to be there in a few
A lot of them are in college.
Some have been there already five years, and you know, plan to be there longer.
It really depends.
I think they came of age during these big social movements, black lives matter, me too.
They're really comfortable with the idea of creating change in the world.
They're also very comfortable with technology, which helps them spread that message.
But I think overall the sentiment was we want to make this better for other Starbucks
workers and for workers everywhere.
We want this to happen.
I'm a McDonald's.
We want this to happen at Taco Bell.
I don't think it was so short sighted that they're like, okay, I need us to have
it happen in the next year for me.
I think they want it to be a larger movement.
Ronnie Molyla is a senior data reporter at Recode from Vox.
Coming up, I talk to a Starbucks union organizer in Rochester, New York.
Our world is full of takes and lots and lots of noise.
All the dumb people decided one day like pronouns are bad.
But things are rarely that simple.
It's not that the truth is in the middle.
It's that we're all living in a very uncertain world.
And there are more questions than answers.
I think it's important to acknowledge that we live in a pluralistic society where norms,
envisions and values of what is most important will never be reconciled totally among us.
Through this problem of polarization is that people feel safe talking about every fewer
Do you think our relationships could remain intact if we were totally transparent about
They think it would lead to some bumpiness.
That's one way to put it.
Embrace the bumpiness.
Enjoying me, showing you, post of the gray area each Monday and Thursday for conversations
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The Paris Swisher here, you may know me as the person who made Mark Zuckerberg sweat, push
Kim Kardashian to talk dollars, or got Secretary Mayor Pete Buttigieg to eat a juicy
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Okay, that one was awkward.
But that's what I like to do, make powerful people comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Now I'll be doing that on my new show from New York Magazine on with Kara Swisher.
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Go check it out, on with Kara Swisher wherever you get your podcasts.
Last week on Thursday and Friday, six more Starbucks stores voted to unionize in upstate
That brings the total number to 16.
Haley Fagan is a union organizer at one of those stores.
It's a Starbucks drive through near Rochester, New York.
Researchers or partners at her store voted 10 to 3 in favor of the union.
It was overwhelming.
I cried when they counted the last yes ballot we needed to like win ours.
Haley Fagan is 22.
She's worked for Starbucks for five years now.
She started out as a barista today.
She's a shift supervisor.
So I guess that's another way to say keyholder.
So in the mornings like, if my store manager isn't there, so I'm opening them up, I'm
counting the safe taking temperatures, inventory, placing inventory orders.
We do frozen food polls for the next day.
We tell like our briefs does where to go, what to do, we send them on breaks, stuff like
You're the manager.
Yeah, everything sure of like writing schedules and like hiring.
How much do you make as the manager of a Starbucks location?
As a supervisor right now, I believe I make 22 84.
What is that add up to over the course of a year?
That's kind of hard to say just because hours are so up and down all the time.
All of us are like part time.
I don't think anyone is technically full time except the actual store manager.
So one week I could be working like 20 hours in the next week.
I might be working like 32 or I might be working like 18.
I think last year it was around 30,000 though.
Okay, yeah, I didn't realize that your hours were so varied.
I assumed you were doing 40 hours a week, but it sounds like that's not at all guaranteed.
And what's an average days schedule for you?
I would say on average 5 a.m.
Anywhere to like 10 a.m. to like 130 p.m.
It's super varied.
Working at a Starbucks, working in food service or retail.
Not necessarily the kind of job that is unionized.
I'd never would have occurred to me when I was your age to push for a union at one of my jobs
in food service.
Why did you think it was necessary?
What was going through your head?
So in like my five and a half years with Starbucks, I've been with multiple different stores
through like store closures in which our district manager had, you know, come to us and
promise like you guys are going to be okay, your store is going to be fine.
And then, you know, maybe a month later they were like, by the way, your store is not fine.
And now we're going to have to find you somewhere else to work.
You know, as someone who doesn't drive the first location, I worked at, I worked out of proximity,
especially because I was 17 when I was hired.
And then I got moved to a location that was a bit farther away and I had to Uber more and
rely on rides more.
And I guess I just got used to it.
So it's been something I kind of just deal with because I'm like working towards my
But also now, Uber's are more expensive. There's some mornings where it's like, if I don't
get this $50 Uber right now, I'm going to get written up.
But if I do get this $50 Uber right now, that's $50 out of my paycheck.
That's two and a half hours of work, just to go work for like maybe six hours.
And then I've still got to pay to go home, like that's not sustainable.
Store closures when they place people after it's not like them working with us to like
find a spot that's good for us.
They just take us somewhere.
There's very little like regard for like your actual need.
They don't care about partners when they close stores.
It's just a money thing.
How did the pandemic change your job?
Something about what happened in the past two years just feels so like profit driven.
There's always a push to like introduce all these new drinks or like this new equipment
that you have to learn how to use and maintain and clean while we're also putting your
hours because like the pandemic and everything like people are getting sick.
Obviously, stores aren't able to maintain the like normal operational hours.
That stores don't earn enough money to like earn the hours to schedule people.
So there just told us it was our fault, basically, that we don't get hours anymore.
I'm thinking about my teen years, I'm thinking about my early 20s.
And if I felt like an employer was jerking me around.
I think my first impulse would be forget these guys.
I'm gonna go work someplace else, right?
I'll go work down at the PX.
I'll go work at the hotel restaurant.
You've stuck with Starbucks.
Why is that?
When it sounds like there's been a lot of upheaval and a lot of it hasn't been super great.
Yeah, so that is something I honestly find myself thinking about a lot.
So I struggled a lot with mental health as like a younger teenager and something I really
found at my first store was kind of that like found family with my coworkers.
It was a very small kiosk of like eight employees.
We saw each other every day, it was, you know, all my friends.
And as rough as it was, I really found like value and joy in that going to work and doing
things and making drinks and making people smile and talking to people.
And the like job itself has brought me like such an immense amount of like comfort and honestly
like genuine opportunity for all of the negative it brings.
There's a reason that I want to fight to make it better for myself and it's because I
don't want to leave.
What was the exact moment where you thought the solution to all of this is forming a union?
That really is when like buffalo went for it.
Just like seeing them like, oh, they're forming a union and something in my head was just
like, wait, I could do that.
Like why didn't I ever think of that?
You know, that's one of those things like you heard about like the fight for 15 or whatever,
but like you don't hear about like food service workers like doing things and not for
nothing when the fight for 15 was happening.
I was probably like 10 and you know, my father used very like conservative.
So all I was hearing from him was like, oh, those lazy people who want $15 for flipping
burgers as like a child.
So I was just like, I never paid attention to it.
It never like interested me, but watching other people do things that I could have never
really thought of or like never would have thought of and watching it actually happen like
that's really inspiring.
But also hearing from my other coworkers like it is bad and this is a good option, like, you
know, we can do this.
That's also very inspiring because that's a team of like 20 people standing behind me.
Now you've done it.
You tend to three in favor of the union.
There you go.
What is next?
What do you do now?
So we got to figure out who we want on our bargaining committee and get that going.
You want to be on?
I absolutely do.
I would love to.
I would be so cool.
And what do you hope I know that once you hit the phase of bargaining, then you're looking
at asking for stuff, right?
What are you going to ask for?
What do you hope will change?
What do you want?
So for myself personally, I really hope to see any semblance of increased transparency.
And I guess that's very broad, but I guess to like put it in perspective on two separate
I've been promised like, oh, you're fine.
You're so fine.
All of the sudden a week later, it was like, by the way, in two weeks, your story is not
You want more security that when you're told to think by your employer, when Starbucks
says your story isn't going to close, you want a guarantee that that's true.
They're not going to tell us two weeks later that, oh, actually you're out of a job.
And see that is like a very specific example that I'm sure not everyone can relate to.
But on the same note, like, a store closure is not a sudden decision that's something like
they've been looking at numbers for a while.
Why aren't we part of that conversation at all?
Why don't we know until it's too late?
If this affects my financial security and my job security, what's happening to me, why
don't I know?
I want to know.
I deserve to know.
The CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, said at a company town hall recently.
Here's where it gets a little sensitive because I've been coached a little bit.
But I do want to talk about something pretty serious.
We can't ignore what is happening in the country as it relates to companies throughout
the country being assaulted in many ways by the threat of unionization.
It demands the CEO of a company that you mostly like working for, have invested five years
of your life in.
What do you make in that statement?
I heard it and honestly, it was just a little funny to me, honestly, we went to work
next morning and everyone who had heard about it, we were like, what do you mean?
He talks about how Starbucks is better without union and good if we can just talk to partners,
partner, partner, whatever, but it's like, he's super ignoring the fact that partners
are starting the unions, workers united isn't like getting full staff with people hired
at every unionizing store store that's filed to make it happen.
This is like 200ish stores across like 28 states and it's all these people saying, hey,
there needs to be a change and it's laughable when he's like, oh, we're being assaulted
and it's like, no, we're just saying we deserve better.
There's no outside force attacking or assaulting anyone.
We are the union, that's the point we have to say.
Outside force had to say, over us, we wouldn't be doing this, you know, we are becoming
unionized, so we have to say.
Haley Fagan 22 years old, she started at Starbucks as a barista, she became a shift supervisor
and now you can add union organizer to her title.
Today show was produced by Will Read, edited by Matthew Collette, engineered by Paul
Mountsey and fact checked by Laura Bullard.
I'm Noelle King, it's today explained.
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Great episode loved the thing but the intro was a little long·5 likes·
Insightful and timely. Heartfelt words of personal and intuitive wisdom. Matt speaks directly from his heart about life wisdom’s coming from experience and deep thought. I love it. Victoria Mcknight4 months ago·3 likes·
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