Efforts to unionize the giant Starbucks chain that began with two stores in Buffalo a few months ago is picking up momentum even though there is still a long way to go. As of mid-May, 78 Starbucks stores around the country have voted to unionize.
And Starbucks is not the only one. The drive of workers to unionize is moving into high gear as about a half-dozen Apple stores, Amazon, REI, and scores of other American workplaces that have never seen a union are facing union organizing drives. And this is taking place even in the face of desperate union-busting tactics by management.
These tactics include the illegal firing of union activists and pouring out millions of dollars in hiring anti-labor law firms and “consultants”.
Workers have a lot to be sore about. According to Robert Reich, the secretary of labor in the Clinton administration and now Professor of Public Policy at the University of California Berkeley, despite the recent uptick in wages, workers are still lagging far behind their real earnings 30 or 40 years ago with corporate CEOs averaging 351 times the typical worker’s salary.
In addition, more than half of Americans work overtime averaging nine hours of overtime work each week but only 15 percent of them are eligible to receive overtime pay,. Reich figures that the total amount of wage theft from unpaid overtime comes to $35,451 for the average family each year.
But there’s more. The American workplace has become a hazardous place. An example of this was the Amazon workplace in Illinois where six workers lost their lives in a tornado after being told by the company that they couldn’t leave, even though they were warned about the deadly storm hours in advance. The AFL-CIO’s figures put the numbers at an average of 340 workers who died each day because of hazardous working conditions with 4,764 workers killed on the job in 2020.
Robert Reich newsletter, 5/20; Portside, 5/19