Since December, 2021, when the first three Starbucks stores in Buffalo, NY went public with their intent to form a union with Starbucks Workers United (a subset of Workers United, itself an affiliate of Service Employees International Union), almost 100 stores have followed suit. This rapid, widespread wave of unionization has many labor-minded DSA members asking how they can help. We don’t have the answer, but Starbucks workers do. Here are their answers.
- Listen to workers! If you don’t know for sure if a shop in your area is forming a union, then please do not go into the store to voice your support. We are all very excited! But, please, let’s not tip anyone’s hand. Instead, Tweet this.
- Stand with the Memphis Seven. On Tuesday, February 8, Starbucks fired the entire organizing committee at a Memphis store. Learn about it. Post a photo of yourself holding a sign stating “I Stand with the Memphis 7.” Tweet about it. Donate.
- Retweet, retweet, retweet and amplify what the workers are saying on social media. To start, follow @sbworkersunited on Twitter and Instagram.
- TIP! With money! Every time! Or, if there’s no store near you and you can swing it, there’s always GoFundMe. Share it with others!
- Write an email. CEO Kevin Johnson’s email address is Kevin.Johnson@starbucks.com and Board Chair Mellody Hobson can be found at email@example.com. Tell them that union busting is simply disgusting. Circulate a petition co-signed by your labor working group.
- DSA members are great at bugging elected officials, community leaders and other public figures! Ask them to tell Starbucks to stop the union-busting campaign. Pass resolutions and write letters to the editor calling out Starbucks for their anti-union attacks. Pull in as many community contacts as you can.
- If a store in your neighborhood has gone public (i.e. announced that they are forming a union), go in regularly to order a coffee “Union Strong.” The simple act of connecting with a barista to quickly vocalize your support goes far during a soul-crushing shift, especially when management is watching.
- If there’s a public bulletin board at a publicly organizing shop, leave notes of encouragement and voice your support for their union drive. Make sure the board is never not feeling the love, and post your pics on social media, tagging @sbworkersunited and @Starbucks. Note: this is not a lit drop, and is only to be done at stores that have gone public.
- If Starbucks workers reach out to your chapter expressing interest in forming a union, connect them to SBWU. Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Once they have gone public, use your existing labor connections to invite other union members to show up en masse (keeping COVID protocols in mind, of course). The more, the merrier 🙂
- Invite baristas to come speak to your group about their drive. Listen to what they are asking for. This is a worker-driven movement, let them steer us. If they ask for a sit-in, or a solidarity picket, button-making, etc, be ready to go! Adopt the shop, as it were, and use all of the above tactics, in conjunction with specific asks from the workers, to strategize how to best show your solidarity.
Solidarity comes in many forms: it can be as simple as ordering a coffee “Union Strong” or donating, but in the long term, we need to go deeper than a one-off contribution. The Democratic Socialists of America could ride this wave until it crests and falls, or they could paddle out, ready and waiting, for the next rising tide of organizing.
And like a riptide, this organizing wave came in fast, taking many by surprise. This worker-led movement shows that DSA chapters need to cultivate organic, real and supportive relationships with all workers, and use their talents when and how they’re asked to do so. If you know that Starbucks workers are interested in organizing, quietly dropping the SBWU email address would go far, but use discretion. Keep these tactics in mind too, for when, perhaps, a giant online retailer fights the same fight in the near future, or a local bakery needs community support, or when any worker continues the struggle against capitalism.
We say a better world is possible; let’s support the workers doing the work.