Starbucks and Colectivo’s organizing efforts challenge local corporate neglect The Badger Herald
March 29, workers at Capitol Square Starbucks in Madison announcement they would seek union representation. These workers join of them other Wisconsin Starbucks stores that are actively lobbying corporate headquarters for union recognition.
This unionization push mirrors a broader trend at Starbucks stores across the country. A successful union vote at a Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York in December 2021 led to more than 100 additional Starbucks locations in 20 US states will follow.
Similarly, workers at a Colectivo Coffee site in Milwaukee vote unionize in August 2021. Their efforts included over 300 employees across Colectivo’s Chicago and Madison locations. In March, the National Labor Relations Board issued a final decision decision which confirmed Electrical Workers 194 as an Accredited Bargaining Representative for Colectivo employees.
Following the initial vote of the Colectivo union, its owners published a letter to customers stating that even if they were ‘disappointed’, they would ‘of course play by the rules and negotiate in good faith’, says Wisconsin reviewer article.
The company’s need to make it clear that it would abide by the law when dealing with organizing efforts touches on a similar reaction across the country to union votes – surprise. Starbucks headquarters echoed the same tone in response to the unionization of Wisconsin sites.
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“We listen and learn from partners in these stores just as we do across the country,” wrote a Starbucks spokesperson in response to a worker at a Starbucks location in Plover, Wisconsin, who attributed his union vote to fire hazards at his location. “From the start, we have been clear in our belief that we are better off together as partners, with no union between us, and that belief has not changed.
A labor movement is brewing in Wisconsin and across the country for the first time in nearly 50 years, leaving landlords unsure how to handle unified workers’ demands. This worrying distance between workers and company representatives is a sign that we may have forgotten about unions for too long.
Wisconsin has always been a hotbed of union activism that started with the state’s heavy manufacturing base in the 19th century. In 1983, 24.6% of workers belonged to a union while the national rate was 20.1%.
Governor Scott Walker reversed this trend with his 2011 legislation to limit union participation in the public and private sectors – called Bill 10 – in a sweeping attempt to cut state spending. A report of the Wisconsin State Journal found that while Act 10 legislation helped the state deal with its budget crisis, it also stagnated teacher salaries and contributed to a 38.5% decline in union membership in Wisconsin between 2010 and 2016.
Despite savings on some government expenditures, Bill 10 legislation failed to predict the national increase in monopolization caused by a combination of automation, international outsourcing and ineffective antitrust prosecutions.
Today, private sector workers in Wisconsin face remote businesses with a variety of issues in every location. Unions are an effective solution to change this.
At the local level, the expansion of unions gives workers a stronger voice to address specific issues that business owners might otherwise overlook. For example, the Oak Creek and Plover, Wisconsin sites used their union vote to highlight unsafe working conditions.
At Madison’s Capitol Square location, workers cited understaffing issues and inconsistent benefits as reasons for organizing a union.
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There are parallels between what unions have achieved historically — like improving basic wages and working conditions — and what workers at Starbucks and Colectivo are doing. Their initial demands are modest and should not be presented as excessive or supported by a political agenda.
Union efforts also deserve credit for fighting wealth inequality in the United States To research from the Economic Policy Institute shows that higher union membership has consistently been associated with a lower share of income going to the top 10% in the United States
It is difficult to draw firm conclusions about whether unions have directly caused these changes in income inequality without causal quantitative data indicating this. But, some research tries to explain why, for example, this share of income going to the richest 10% reached historic lows in the 1950s, when union membership was reduced. soaring.
A paper of the National Bureau of Economic Research found that unions are largely successful in raising the wages of their members. He also found a negative correlation between executive pay and unionization and that the loss of union membership is partially associated with higher CEO pay.
But, there are negative trade-offs for unions for workers and the economy if this union push becomes a permanent trend in Wisconsin.
Barry Hirsch’s Trinity University paper “What do unions do for economic performance? mentions how unions can alter market outcomes by shifting wages above opportunity costs, thereby limiting natural job turnover. A moderately high job turnover rate – as morally reprehensible as it may seem – is in fact Well to match workers with companies best suited to their skills and important for healthy economic growth.
This research is relevant to consider as cities like Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin move toward more Technologycapital-based economies. A 2017 study found that Wisconsin ranks 20th in the United States for tech employment.
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But workers at Starbucks and Colectivo are not calling for a statewide union push that spans multiple industries employing workers in the state. Instead, they use union laws to do what they were designed centuries ago: protect workers from the neglect of powerful and increasingly monopolistic corporations.
Wisconsinans should assess union expansion on a case-by-case basis rather than simply taking a pro or anti-union stance. The Capitol Square Starbucks case is a good example of union expansion as a battle between workers and corporate power that should not be politicized.
Generally speaking, while there is more economic research on how unions are successful in addressing the inequality of the wealthy than, say, in preventing Wisconsin’s shift to a predominantly tech-based economy, there There are strong trade-offs for both sides of the union argument.
I hope Wisconsin voters and lawmakers approach our state’s return to unions with productive skepticism as we enter the 2022 election, when this subject will inevitably make headlines.
Will Romano ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in economics and journalism and working towards a certificate in environmental studies.