Takes on Starbucks, inspired by Bernie Sanders

Starbucks allows health workers at least 20 hours a week to get health coverage, more generous than most competitors, and has said it will raise the average hourly wage to nearly $ 17 an hour by summer, well above industry norms. The company also offers to pay tuition fees to employees who are admitted to take an online bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University, which helps it attract workers with college ambitions.

Such people, in turn, tend to be sympathetic to unions and a variety of social activists. A recent Gallup poll found that people under the age of 35 or who are liberals are significantly more likely than others to support unions.

Several Starbucks workers are seeking to organize unions in Buffalo; Boston; Chicago; Seattle; Knoxville, Tenn .; Tallahassee, Florida; and the Denver area seemed to fit this profile, saying they were either strong supporters of Mr. Sanders and other progressive politicians, had gone to college, or both. Most were under 30 years old.

“I’ve been involved in political organization, the Bernie Sanders campaign,” said Brick Zurek, leader of a trade union campaign at a Starbucks in Chicago. – It gave me a lot of competence. Mx. Zurek, who uses gender-neutral courtesy titles and pronouns, also said they had a bachelor’s degree.

Len Harris, who has helped lead a campaign at a Starbucks near Denver, said “I admire progressivism, the sense of community” to politicians such as Mr. Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat. She said that she had graduated from college and that she was waiting for admission decisions to the graduate school.

And most union supporters have taken inspiration from their Buffalo colleagues. Sydney Durkin and Rachel Ybarra, who help organize a Starbucks in Seattle, said workers in their store discussed the Buffalo campaign almost daily as it unfolded, and contacted the union after the National Labor Relations Board announced the first the results of the campaign. Buffalo election in December. (The union’s second victory was announced on Monday, after the labor board resolved ballot paper challenges.)

Ybarra said the victory showed workers that it was possible to organize despite the company’s opposition. “The Buffalo people became superheroes,” she said. “Many of us spent so much time being afraid of retaliation – none of us could afford to lose our jobs, get our hours cut.”

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