OPINION: Labor supports Labor: here’s a great idea if you visit Starbucks


When you doubt the strength of workers standing together in unions, consider this headline from the May 4, 2022, Wall Street Journal: “Starbucks Sets Nonunion Pay Raises.”

Starbucks, which is facing a union organizing drive among its workers, announced that it would raise pay for baristas by five percent for those who’d labored for the company for at least two years and three percent for those with less than two years. The company said the raises would apply only to those stores which had not unionized – clearly an attempt to intimidate workers from unionizing. The company, in effect, saying “if you don’t unionize, we’ll give you a pay raise.”

But why the pay increases, modest as they may be? Two-hundred-forty of the 9,000 Starbucks corporate stores have filed petitions to unionize. Workers have won 46 of those elections held to date, while only losing five with three elections as yet undecided.

Answer: workers unionize, win elections, management sees the handwriting on the wall, gives pay raises to non-union shops in an effort to stop workers’ power. By the way, the pay hikes won’t take effect until August! In effect the company is saying “I’m gonna give you a little treat, but you have to wait three months to get it!”

I’m sure you’ll be surprised to know that the company, at the end of April, announced higher quarterly sales and profits. Who earned those sales and profits for the company? The baristas, not the CEO! Yet it’s the workers who have to wait for their treat.

Let’s figure out what that big five percent pay raise means.

According to employment site Indeed, the average salary for a barista at Starbucks as of April 28, 2022, is $13.33 an hour. A five percent pay raise equals 67 cents an hour. A three percent raise equals 40 cents an hour. With 10 hours of work, a barista could afford one of those $4 cups of coffee that have enriched CEO Howard Schultz.

Thanks to secretive executive payment agreements, it’s virtually impossible to figure out what a major company CEO makes. Business publication Bloomberg estimated that in the 10 years from January 2007 to January 2017 Schultz made a half billion dollars, billion with a B! His net worth exceeds $3 billion.

All of it earned on the backs of the baristas. The only coffee stains on his custom-tailored shirts comes from spilling it while climbing onto his private jet.

Yup, Schultz was the guy who told Starbucks employees the company couldn’t afford to match the 401k contribution they had been promised the same month the company bought a $45 million private jet for him to fly around in.

I don’t drink Starbucks, but I think I’ll start going in, asking the barista “Is this a union shop?” and when the answer is ‘No,’ I’ll turn around and walk out. If the answer is ‘Yes,’ I’ll buy a cup and shake their hand.

Six of the more than 22 St. Louis area Starbucks have filed petitions for a union vote, so I may be walking out more than buying coffee, but let’s get the message across that Labor supports Labor.

(William Enyart of Belleville is a former U.S. congressman for Illinois’ 12th District and retired two-star general with 35 years in the military serving in the U.S. Air Force, ultimately serving as Adjutant General of Illinois commanding both the Illinois Army and Air National Guard. He started his working life as a member of UAW Local 145, Montgomery, Ill, where he and his father both worked for Caterpillar Tractor Co. You can listen to his blog posts at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1089968).

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