On March 18, workers at the Astoria Boulevard Starbucks announced they were becoming the first Starbucks in Queens to file for union recognition. On April 1, a crowd of 50 Starbucks employees, local community allies and elected officials joined together for a spirited rally across the street from the store. The gathering was held hours after Amazon workers on Staten Island won a historic union election that was on everyone’s minds.
“Who would Starbucks be without the baristas?” Asked Julia Kelly of Amazonians United NYC, a group that is organizing Amazon distribution hubs in Queens. “Who would Amazon be without the people packing the boxes, driving the trucks and sorting the packages? Just because our labor is physical doesn’t mean that we deserve pennies thrown at us while our bosses sit in mansions and rocket ships.”
Starbucks employs 235,000 workers in the United States spread across 8,900 stores. It has crushed previous union drives, but since last fall workers have filed for union recognition at more than 200 stores in 29 states. That number grows almost every day despite the firings of some of Starbucks Workers United’s leading worker-organizers. The union has won 18 out of 19 elections held to date.
“We will be holding an election in the spring regardless of obstruction or intimidation from corporate,” said James Carr, one of the Astoria Boulevard baristas. “We are not afraid of them. We are the wave that is going to come crashing down on the people that control us.”
Workers at the Astoria Boulevard Starbucks have told The Indypendent that frustration with low wages and erratic schedules is fueling their union drive. They also remain dismayed by the lack of concern the company has shown for its employees during the pandemic. Baristas, for example, were expected to check for vaccine status and monitor mask usage while making drinks when Starbucks should have hired an additional worker dedicated to thosetasks, they say.
Elected officials who attended the rally included State Senator Michael Giannaris, Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani and New York City Councilmember Tiffany Cabán.
“New York just loves to kick Amazon’s ass, don’t we?” Said Giannaris who played a key role in 2019 in scuttling a plan to give Amazon $3 billion in public subsidies to build a second corporate headquarters in Long Island City. “ Not only are we the first place to unionize at an Amazon facility, we are the first place to unionize at a Starbucks facility, up in Buffalo. God bless those workers. They are an inspiration. People see that it’s possible to stand up to the big boys.”
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