Jun 10, 2022 - Business

Austin Starbucks workers join national labor push

Illustration of the Starbucks siren holding up a fist.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Baristas at a Starbucks by the UT campus will tally votes Friday on whether to unionize.

The big picture: The strong economy, combined with a pro-union White House and lingering pandemic concerns, are fueling a new labor movement across the U.S.

  • Workers at the Starbucks on West 24th Street are the latest group to consider forming a union.

What they're saying: Morgan Leavy, who works at the Starbucks at 45th and Lamar — which recently became the first in Texas to unionize — said employees want better insurance and higher pay.

  • At a starting salary of $14 for baristas, Leavy said Starbucks workers in Austin can't afford rent.
  • "Starbucks workers are not paid enough for a job that's more skilled than people assume," Leavy told Axios.
  • If you support the effort, list your name as "Union Strong" when you order a coffee, Leavy said.

Between the lines: Starbucks workers aiming to organize have complained of union-busting techniques, such as cut hours and tighter rules, per KVUE.

The other side: A Starbucks spokesperson defended the company's benefits and COVID policies in a statement to Axios and pointed to the recent announcement of increased wages and benefits for staff at non-unionized locations.

  • "From the beginning, we've been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed," the spokesperson wrote in an email.
  • The company has also said that "any claims of union busting are false."

State of play: Aaron Sojourner, an analyst at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, told Axios that conditions for forming a union are more favorable than they have been in decades.

  • "Workers are in the driver's seat in the labor market right now," he said, citing job security as an incentive to seek better pay and conditions through bargaining power.

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