Vox pushes pitiful case for Starbucks unionization

April 7, 2022

By John Ransom

Vox is stoked about the unionization that’s happening at Starbucks and picked perhaps the worst employee from Starbucks, with the worst case to make, to highlight the future of unions. 

“For now, the actions at Starbucks provide a case study for how other Americans might try to organize and where the union movement might go from here,” said Vox. 

No, it doesn’t.  

“The scale, the energy, the pace,” said Richard Minter, vice president of the union that represents Starbucks employees, told Vox. “There’s nothing like it in labor history.”

But there is, and that’s probably not good for unions. Considering that there are only about 150 union petitions for about 9,000 U.S. Starbucks stores — less than 2 percent of stores — there is a bigger question at stake.  

And that question is: So what? 

If the union is fighting for the example that Vox uses as its big interview the union drive is doomed to fail.  

So, what exactly does Vox think that unionization for employees at Starbucks will do for those employees that will make their life better? What’s the secret of the union of the future?

Vox admits that Starbucks is an exceptional target for unionization. And by that, it means few companies can create the ideal conditions that favor this union the way Starbucks has.   It has almost a flawless blend of corporate culture, which can’t quite oppose unionization, blended with workers who have been recruited to Starbucks because the company “espouses progressive values, from single-origin coffee beans to LGBTQ rights,” according to Vox.    

It’s the perfect storm of a corporate culture that eventually will turn on you, for no other reason than the employees they recruit want to feel diminished and tell you how diminished they feel. 

And then Vox trots out the ideal example. 

“Starbucks is quote-unquote ‘progressive,’ ‘woke,’ whatever. They give us decent benefits,” said Hayleigh Fagan, whom Vox identified as a 22-year-old shift supervisor in Rochester.“But we’re literally selling our lives and time and bodies to this corporation. Tell me why I don’t deserve a living wage.”  

For the record, Vox wrote that Fagan makes $22 per hour — more than 10 percent higher than the average for the leisure and hospitality industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And it’s 83 percent higher than the retail coffee industry, according to statistics that Vox itself supplied. 

But here’s the real kicker. 

Fagan’s main complaint is that her salary doesn’t help cover the “the $20 to $50 cab ride” that she takes each day to work for her six-hour shift (she doesn’t drive, Vox said). 

That’s right, this union is supposed to fight for Fagan’s right to get another $3.33-$8.33 per hour so she can take a cab to work.   

Make no mistake: These Starbucks employees aren’t the Strawberry Boys who worked for Kroger in 1930 and were required to put in 12-hour shifts starting at 4:30 am for 32 cents an hour, but only got paid when and if trucks arrived- and then were required to spend 75 cents of every dollar that they made at Kroger. 

These are people, including the shift supervisors, who are managers after all– marketing climate change professionally to sell coffee, so they can take cab to work and charge $2.75-5.00 for coffee that cost the Strawberry Boys 1 penny. 

On a relative basis,  the cup of coffee the Strawberry Boys bought cost just 1/3 of one percent of their hourly wages. The cup of coffee the Starbucks shift supervisors buy cost 12.5 percent to 23 percent of their hourly wage.     

Accounting for inflation the Strawberry Boys made $5.44 per hour to Fagan’s $22.00 per hour. 

And the worst part of all of this is that Vox thinks this is the model for unions of the future, and apparently thinks Fagan should have the right to take a cab to work. 

Get a union! Take a cab! Fight against climate change! Hike the price of coffee! Again! 

That’s the future of unions for which Vox is fighting.  


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