INSTITUTE INDEX: Starbucks workers organize the South against great odds

Starbucks workers at a protest in Tallahassee, Florida

Starbucks workers and a customer protested outside of a store in Tallahassee, Florida in February. Hundreds of employees at the chain's Southern locations have organized their workplaces in a region with a history of hostility toward labor unions. (Photo by Ethan B. via Wikimedia Commons.) 

Since a Starbucks Coffee store in Buffalo, New York, became the first in the U.S. to unionize last year, number of Starbucks nationwide where workers have unionized with Starbucks Workers United: 241

Number of Starbucks locations in the South where workers have unionized: 37

Date on which the House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing titled “In Solidarity: Removing Barriers to Organizing” that featured testimony from Buffalo Starbucks worker Michelle Eisen as well as prominent labor rights experts: 9/14/2022

According to Eisen's testimony, number of unfair labor practices complaints Starbucks Workers United has filed against the company with the National Labor Relations Board: 359

Of the at least 100 Starbucks workers nationwide who've been fired for their organizing efforts, number who worked at stores in Southern states: 27

According to testimony delivered at the House hearing by Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, percent that union representation petitions overall increased from October 2021 to June 2022: 58

During the first half of 2022, percent of petitions the unions won — a success rate not seen in over two decades: 77

Percent of union elections held nationwide in the first half of this year that took place in the retail/wholesale, business/professional, and health care industries, respectively: 42, 14, 12

Of the employers who mounted campaigns against union organizing efforts last year, percent who held anti-union meetings made mandatory for workers, according to Bronfenbrenner's research: 85

Of the 13 Southern states, number that have on the books so-called “right-to-work” laws designed to discourage unions: 13

Percent by which union membership in the South declined from 2020 to 2021, according to a Facing South analysis: 13.5

Percent of workers who belong to unions in South Carolina, the state that had the lowest union membership rate last year: 1.7

At a Starbucks near Clemson University in Anderson, South Carolina, number of employees who were put on paid leave in August after staging a “March on the Boss” in which they delivered demands for better pay, hours, and equipment to a manager who then falsely accused them of kidnapping her: 11

Number of workers a federal judge recently required a Memphis Starbucks to rehire after finding they were unlawfully fired in June for organizing: 7

Date when Starbucks announced it sent letters to unionized stores saying it plans to start bargaining collectively with Starbucks Workers United in October: 9/26/2022

Percent of Americans who now approve of labor unions, according to a recent Gallup poll: 71

Last time that number was so high: 1965

(Click on figure to go to source.)