Workers’ rights: First US works council at Starbucks

Status: 10.12.2021 09:55 a.m.

In the United States, employees of the Starbucks coffee house chain are given a works council for the first time in two branches in New York State. US trade unionists are now hoping for a “domino effect”.

Workers at two Starbucks cafes in New York State have voted to set up employee representatives, according to the National Labor Relations Agency (NLRB). In another branch, however, the majority of employees voted against the establishment of a works council.

The final voting results have yet to be confirmed by the authority after some votes have been challenged. The unionists are certain, however, that they won at the two branches in Buffalo, in upstate New York.

A Starbucks spokeswoman said the company still believes that the company’s conditions do not warrant a works council. But she added: “We respect our partners’ right to organize.” The group will wait for the final confirmation of the results in the coming week before announcing the next steps.

“Great symbolic meaning”

Unionists across the country are celebrating success hoping for a domino effect – not just at Starbucks, but also at other US companies like Amazon, which are opposing similar union organizing efforts. According to the union, Starbucks had sent around 200 managers and supervisors to the branches to convince undecided employees that employee representatives were not in their interests.

Prominent representatives of the left wing of the Democrats, such as Senator Bernie Sanders and MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said they were delighted with the success of the unions. John Logan, a professor of employment studies at San Francisco State University, told the news agency Reuters: “Although it affects only a small number of workers, the result has great symbolic significance.”

Union at Amazon?

The issue of trade unions in the USA is also on the agenda at Amazon. Only a few days ago the NLRB had granted the objection of the RWDSU union, which had accused the US group of undue influence and rule violations. The result of a vote on the formation of a first union representation among employees at the logistics center in Bessemer, Alabama, was therefore canceled. The vote should now be repeated. A large majority of employees voted against employee representation in April.

With its “intimidation and interference”, Amazon prevented a fair vote, said RWDSU boss Stuart Appelbaum. The responsible NLRB representative Lisa Henderson gave the reason, among other things, that Amazon had given the impression of “recording the identity of the employees who voted”. A date for the new vote has not been set.

Ver.di demands a collective agreement

“As a company, we do not believe that unions are the best solution for our employees,” said an Amazon spokeswoman. So far, there has been no union representation in any Amazon branch in the USA. An association of warehouse workers at the mail order company in New York last attempted to do this in October.

In Germany, the Ver.di union has been fighting for years to ensure that Amazon employees get a collective agreement and are paid according to the tariff for retail and mail order.

First works council at coffee giant Starbucks in the USA

Peter Mücke, ARD New York, December 10th, 2021 7:33 am

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