Since late 2021, large companies like Amazon, Google, and Starbucks have seen a growing trend of workers seeking union representation. While not all efforts have been successful, many remain determined to move forward.
Buffalo Starbucks’ organizational victory inspired other branches across the country to join the union, and Michigan is the latest state to join the union.
More than 10 Starbucks in Michigan has successfully received union votes within months.
“I don’t want better pay for just myself, I want better pay for the guy who’s been here for 14 years and makes 10 cents more than me,” said Hannah Whitbeck, former shift manager at Starbucks in Ann Arbor.
Whitbeck was instrumental in leading union work on his site, garnering enough votes in early June to be represented at Starbucks Workers United. As a result, only one chain voted against the union.
“Five out of six, in a really small area, I would say is a really good deal,” said Whitbeck.
According to the National Labor Relations Board, union requests increased 57% in the first half of the fiscal year, from October 1 to March 31. But Professor Marick Masters, who teaches business administration at Wayne State University and has written extensively on labor issues, said that despite measurable increases, union membership in Michigan is nowhere near what it once was.
“In 1960, 50% of the workers in Michigan were unionized,” he revealed.
“So this is perhaps a tipping point, but it’s too early to tell whether or not this represents a sea-change in union success, either in Detroit, statewide, or nationally.”
Starbucks is not alone, as workers at Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company, a Midtown coffeehouse, went on strike in February demanding better benefits, higher wages and paid sick leave.
Like many others, the cafe is pushing for a union. However, the store closed in January due to a COVID outbreak. Others credit the COVID-19 pandemic as a catalyst for union efforts. Meanwhile, Hannah Whitbeck thinks the craving existed long before COVID and said she and her colleagues want to feel like they’re sitting at the table.
The former regulator says the pandemic has only made concerns more apparent.
In April, Whitbeck was fired from her job for leaving a bartender unattended. She claims she never received a formal warning and was only late once after a car accident. Whitbeck believes his resignation was due to his desire for union representation. She is currently working with the NLRB to restore her position.