I finally mustered up the courage to ask around if anybody knew how to actually use the machine. Someone volunteered to walk me through the steps and I was hooked. Every day before going into the office I would watch youtube videos to learn how to pull the perfect shot.
I’ve never thought of myself as a coffee snob. Over the years I’ve cultivated a taste for burnt diner coffee. I would never even think to grab the occasional latte. I’ve been told that cutting out the occasional coffee & avocado toast should put me on the pathway to one day owning a home. Just have 25,000 more lattes to skip before I can put a down payment on my next house.
After a few months of pulling watery shots and scalding my milk I finally hit a milestone last week. In fact, last week saw two big milestones in my local coffee world. I finally made a passable latte and the Pleasanton Starbucks workers voted to unionize their store.
Last week workers at the Starbucks store in downtown Pleasanton approved unionization in an 8-4 vote. This makes the store the 19th in California to gain union representation and it joins the over 250 Starbucks locations across the United States which have voted to unionize.
In addition to overall higher wages, a key demand from workers across all locations is guaranteed hours, predictable schedules, and adequate staffing. Starbucks profit has been increasing year over year and their stock price is up over 16% from pre-pandemic prices. One of the key drivers to this increased profit margin is by cutting employee hours and pushing individuals to do the work of multiple people.
Starbucks has had a history of offering great benefits to its full time workers. These benefits include health care and partial college tuition reimbursement. By cutting hours, Starbucks has the ability to pull employees below the minimum required hours needed to qualify for these benefits. Individuals who chose to work for the company under those initial promises are left behind.
This increased profit & stock price gain is not shared evenly throughout the partners which make up Starbucks. Although frontline workers are granted a small portion of stock after two continuous years of service, the vast majority of these gains are captured by those up the management chain and in corporate.
In order to preserve their ability to suppress worker benefits and increase topline profits, Starbucks has led one of the most aggressive union busting drives in recent history. They quickly move to close down stores where unionization efforts start and aim to fire key employees leading efforts.
According to the NLRB, on March 1, 2023, NLRB Administrative Law Judge Michael A. Rosas issued a decision finding Starbucks had violated the National Labor Relations Act hundreds of times to affect workers’ organizing efforts through “egregious and widespread misconduct demonstrating a general disregard for the employees’ fundamental rights. Rosas determined that Starbucks illegally disciplined and fired employees "in response to union activity."
The issues around consistent staffing are felt right here in the downtown Pleasanton store. According to reporting by NBC Bay Area, shift supervisor Natasha Fields said she is left with just one of two crew members on the late morning to evening shift when upwards of 70 school children come in during the rush at the Pleasanton store.
Many workers have chosen to grow careers at the company and others are working in addition to pursuing a higher education. For both, a consistent livable wage is the only thing that allows them to live while pursuing greater advancement in life.
To be completely honest, I don’t think any coffee snob (or wannabee coffee snob like myself) has a particular high opinion of Starbucks. The store’s more traditional drinks are underrated, but they are most known for making what is essentially caffeinated milkshakes. There does appear to be a strong market for these, and I’m glad the workers making them now get a stronger say in their livelihoods.