Since late 2021, large companies like Amazon, Google and Starbucks have seen a growing trend of workers seeking union representation. While not all efforts have been successful, many remain determined to move forward.
Winning the Buffalo Starbucks unionization was instrumental in inspiring other branches across the country to join the union. Michigan is the latest state to join the union effort.
More than 10 Starbucks in Michigan earned successful union votes in just a few months.
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“I don’t want better pay for just myself, I want better pay for the guy who’s been here for 14 years and makes 10 cents more than me,” said Hannah Whitbeck, a former shift manager at Starbucks at Ann Arbor.
Whitbeck was instrumental in leading union work on her site and, by early June, garnered enough votes to be represented at Starbucks Workers United. As a result, only one channel voted against forming a union.
“Five out of six, in a really small area, I would say is a really good deal,” Whitbeck said.
According to the National Labor Relations Board, union applications increased by 57% in the first half of the fiscal year, from October 1 to March 31. However, professor Marick Masters, who teaches business administration at Wayne State University and has written extensively on labor issues, said union membership in Michigan is far from what it used to be, despite measurable increases.
“In 1960, 50% of the workers in Michigan were unionized,” he revealed.
“So this is perhaps a tipping point, but it’s too early to tell whether or not this represents a sea-change in union success, either in Detroit, statewide, or nationally.”
Starbucks is not alone, as workers at Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company, a Midtown coffeehouse, went on strike in February demanding better benefits, higher wages and paid sick leave.
Like many others, the cafe is pushing for a union. However, the store closed in January due to a COVID outbreak. Other people attribute the COVID-19 pandemic as a catalyst for union efforts. Meanwhile, Hannah Whitbeck believes the cravings were there long before COVID and said she and her colleagues wanted to feel like they were sitting at the table.
The former regulator says the pandemic has only made concerns more evident.
In April, Whitbeck was fired from her position for leaving a bartender unattended. She claims she never received a formal early warning and only arrived late once after a car accident. Whitbeck believes his resignation stems from his quest for union representation. She is currently working with the NLRB to restore her position.
Read also: Seven Starbucks Employees in Buffalo, New York, Were Released for Unionization Efforts, According to NLRB