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Four more Starbucks stores unionize, sending shivers to board rooms

As the Washington Post reports, four additional Starbucks stores voted to unionize over the last two days, bringing the number of shops owned by the Seattle chain to unionize to 14.  The push favoring unions–which also led to a New York Amazon warehouse unionizing–has sprung from the worker situation in the pandemic.

With job openings trending far above the number of people seeking jobs, the labor market is shifting.  Workers now hold the keys to whom they work for and their employment conditions, a situation brought on by workers quitting or being laid off from their high-risk/stress, low-wage jobs at the height of the pandemic, only to be begged back to the job by their employers who can’t find workers.

Since the end of the pandemic lockdown, these workers began to understand their worth in the marketplace:  they could charge more for their labor and have a more fulfilling life.  Coming back to work would be on their terms, and one of those terms will be to have unionized workplaces where their hard-earned rights are protected.

Starbucks and Amazon are two of the most high profile cases, but they were also some of the more prolific abusers of workers.  Various stories circulated about poor working conditions, no bathroom breaks, unreasonable schedules and unpaid pre- and post-shift mandatory work.

The unionization push, however, will likely come with a price:  higher costs, although only in the range of a few percentage points.  As worker wages rise, corporate boards aren’t going to want to give up those elevated profits to maintain prices, so they’re going to increase prices and, not coincidentally, their dividends.

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