The Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Chelsea voted to unionize last week, making it the ninth union store in the country, following wins in Buffalo, Seattle, and Mesa, and the first in New York City. Results of a Knoxville, Tennessee union election are being verified by the National Labor Relations Board, and another store in Springfield, Virginia will hold their own election next week.
These historic wins, buoyed by the victory at Amazon in Staten Island, have lifted workers’ spirits and illuminated the light at the end of the long tunnel of workplace organizing. It’s important to note, too, that Starbucks has long been known for their “progressive” branding as a family-, POC- and LGBTQ-friendly workplace, as has REI, whose retail store in SoHo recently voted to unionize last month. Companies that hide behind “progressive” ideals are arguably more insidious than their evil corporate counterparts, because they engage in a kind of worker-gaslighting as a form of union-busting: “You have it so good here, why would you risk that?”
REI even released a now-infamous union-busting podcast featuring Wilma Wallace, the company’s chief diversity and social impact officer, who wants you to know both her pronouns, and that she is speaking to you from the traditional lands of the Ohlone people. An executive at a “progressive” company might even say that they don’t oppose unions, they just think it’s not the right thing for their company.
But workers are too smart for that! They can see beyond the blatant manipulation tactics these companies use. And the first step to taking them down is to chip away at their “progressive” public facade. As these recent wins show, real workplace equality comes from the workers.