Teen Vogue misleads readers on how union negotiations work

June 16, 2022

By Tim Worstall

Teen Vogue seems to not quite realize how union contracts and negotiations work – which is strange, seeing how keen they are on there being more unions with more people in them.

Here, in a piece headlined “Starbucks Threatens to Take Away Trans Rights at Stores That Unionize,”  for example, they complain that Starbucks is threatening newly unionized employees with the withdrawal of transgender health care. This isn’t really quite what is going on – Starbucks is instead noting that the union might not prioritize transgender health care in the contract negotiations, a rather different thing.

Well, not really. What Starbucks management has been pointing out is that the current non-union contract is a series of deals and compromises. This much pay, that control over working hours, this about seniority, that medical coverage, this amount of vacation, and on and on. Every contract is just that. The whole idea of unionization is that the current contract between management and staff will end. The union will now negotiate with management on behalf of the staff. That’s the point, right?

But a new contract may well – probably will – be different in certain ways from the old one. If you ask for more along this axis of negotiation you might, get less on this one. This seems to come as a surprise at Teen Vogue:  “  Multiple employees have alleged that Starbucks is threatening to take away trans healthcare coverage at locations that plan to unionize, “ Not so much in fact. Here’s one example: “Just know that if you unionize, when you are negotiating your benefits, you could gain, you could lose, or you could stay the same.” The manager then pointedly added that they knew Cremin had used the trans health care benefits.” Well, that’s clearly true. A new negotiation will lead to a new settlement. It will not be the same in every respect as the old one.

Whether the new union settlement will include trans health care services is up to the union negotiators of course. The more salient they think that issue is the more they will insist upon it – and the more they will need to retreat on other desirable items on their list. Because that’s just how negotiations work.

“The anonymous employee told Bloomberg that her managers asked “what would happen if her co-workers didn’t care about trans health care and negotiated a new benefit package without it,” according to the piece.

That is not a threat by management to withdraw that benefit. It’s a statement of the obvious, that if the benefit is to be kept in the new union contract, then it needs to be the union insisting that it’s in that new contract.

Teen Vogue markets itself as “educating the influencers of tomorrow” which is a noble goal. They gain about 5.5 million visits a month as they do so. Of course, that influence is heavily concentrated in their teen, female, readership so weighs heavier in that demographic.

We support the idea of educating the young of today, whether they become influencers or not. We do think though that education requires teaching the base verities of life. No, you can’t have it all. Yes, desiring more of some one thing will mean giving up some other thing. If you decide to rip up your employment contract and replace it with a union-negotiated one then you may well end up with different things in your employment contract. People pointing this out to you, even if they’re management, are not threatening or oppressing you. They’re educating you.


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