Sep 17, 2021
Gen Z battles to bring back unions, one Starbucks at a time
Stressful working conditions, a lack of training, and slim hopes of a pay rise are just some of the things that anger Jaz Brisack, 24, about working at Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, USA.Yet it was the "Inability to negotiate as equals" with the coffee giant that pushed the barista and about 80 of her colleagues to do something out of the ordinary last month: call for a vote to form a union. The US has a rich history of labour organising dating back to the industrial revolution, and by the late 1960s more than a third of all US workers were union members. Many Republican states have since brought in "Right to work" laws that weaken unions, while increasingly large corporations use their "Vast resources" to quell organising efforts, says Dan Cornfield, an expert in unionism at Vanderbilt University. Recent examples include the disgruntled Google engineers who unionised in January; a wave of successful campaigns at non-profit organisations such as the American Civil Liberties Union; and a new nurses' union at the Mission Hospital in North Carolina, one of the most anti-union states in the US.The pandemic has put a fire under such efforts, after workers were abruptly laid off or had their hours or pay cut. In March, the House of Representatives passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, a sweeping pro-union bill backed by the President, which would change the rules around union elections and stiffen penalties for employers who violate workers' rights.
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