Houston’s Starbucks Union Goes on Unfair Labor Practice Strike
Houston’s first Starbucks Union went on a strike October 1, 2022, over an unfair labor practice in which Starbucks fired a worker-organizer prior to the union election count. This action violates the National Labor Relations Act, and workers picketed to demand they reinstate the unlawfully fired union organizer and want to prevent it from happening to other workers. Starbucks has been known to fire workers illegally and had to reinstate seven workers in Tennessee this year.
The worker-organizer that was fired ahead of the union vote was Josh, and he currently has a relief fund you can donate to, here. He was at Starbucks for 9 years.
“I am just one of over 100 Starbucks union organizers that have been fired from the company.” — Josh
Salaried employees (scabs) were hired to run the store while the unionized members picketed. Union members picketed outside of the establishment and asked customers to not buy coffee from this location. When I was interviewing with Josh, fired organizer, and Madeline, Starbucks union member, most customers crossed the picket line. Only a few went to another location to buy their coffee. The lack of worker solidarity in Texas’ biggest blue dot was disheartening, though not surprising.
RELATED: Opinion — “The New York Times is a reminder: good liberals often oppose unions” — The Guardian
Scabs are people a corporation gets to replace the striking workers. This tactic purposefully pits workers against each other, creating conflict to ensure workers settle for what is given to them rather what is demanded. Most of the time, scabs are in the same economic situation the unionized workers are in — no living wage, working long hours, no paid time off, lack of healthcare, etc.
The company gives whatever benefits they want with no negotiation with the workers. As a result, the benefits are not to the truest extent the corporation can provide. Starbucks has one of the better standards of working conditions in the service industry, however, it’s essentially a PR stunt. The main sentiment from union organizers is the chronic understaffing.
“Starbucks is kind of the liberal standard for what a good work environment is in the service industry…I think it is important for people to see that even a company that is a standard for good benefits, good wages, good quality of work place experience, doesn’t meet those requirements by any stretch of the imagination.” — Josh
Striking over an unfair labor practice isn’t only for union members, Madeline, informed me. There is some process to do with management, but anyone can have an unfair labor strike and it’s legally protected.
“I want to make sure my wage is what I can live off of without working multiple jobs, 60+hours a week, live a life with waking up only to go to work. Who would’ve thought that is something people would want? Or that people could have?
We also don’t want this to happen to any other workers, like whether it be our store or across the country. It’s just not fair.” — Madeline
Union Busting 101
Union busting and police brutalizing workers is integral to America’s history. It’s a lot to cover, so here are links to get you started.
- Union Busting: What Are Some of the Most Common Tactics Employers Use?
- 10 Major Labor Strikes Throughout US History
- The Business of Union Busting
- The Contemporary US Right’s Roots in 1930s Union-Busting
I asked Josh and Madeline what can the community do to support them. Below are their responses. You can listen to the audio, here.
“It is not an experience you have to suffer alone if you make under $50,000 or even less…even if you are the hardest individual picking yourself up by your bootstraps, it’s not a personal failure on yourself to not be in a better financial situation. It is a systemic failure that everyone is experiencing…
Take the scary step of organizing your workplace. This is not a movement isolated to Starbucks, although it’s getting the most attention…
If we are a country run by corporations, a democratic voice can only be heard through organizing your workplace. Until either party wants to stand up for workers in a meaningful way, this is the only politics that matters.” — Josh
“Your frustrations are valid. There’s peace in knowing other people feel that way, but there’s also power. This is 100% legal — should it be this difficult? absolutely not — but it is legal and you are protected and it’s important to not be afraid to put yourself out there…
If you are able to, whether it’s Starbucks or another workplace that is striking or actively encountering union busting, going out and supporting them. Visiting them in their store like ‘I’m here with you’….even like offering a word of support to keep the energy, the movement going.” — Madeline
Visit them at the store and offer your support:
2801 South Shepard
Houston, TX 77098