AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Starbucks location on 24th and Nueces in Austin has officially filed to form a union with the National Labor Relations Board.
“We want a voice in the decisions that affect our day-to-day workplace lives,” Lillian Allen, a barista at that Starbucks, explained Tuesday.
“Better scheduling, better staffing, better training … we want pay that makes sense with Austin’s rising cost of living,” Allen continued, adding she thinks management could be doing more.
“[They’re] consistently scheduling people outside of their availability or scheduling people for like, seven hours a week when they need 20,” Allen said, explaining her push to form a union.
“We’re trying to get them to actually listen to us,” Allen said. “We don’t not like Starbucks. If we didn’t like it, we would quit. What we want to do is come together in a true partnership and be able to hold the company accountable.”
Texas is a right-to-work state, though. In other states, employers are required to hire within a union, which offers that union collective bargaining powers.
“That means that in Texas, an employer can hire anyone, whether they’re union or non-union. And so it does take away a lot of the power of being unionized,” said employment attorney Dan Ross, the founder of Ross Scalise Law Group.
That doesn’t mean unions don’t have power in Texas, though.
Journalists with the Dallas Morning News voted to unionize in 2020 and have since been able to negotiate pay and working conditions.
“We just finished negotiating with the company about what a more consistent return to the physical offices will look like safety wise,” Dom DiFurio, the union chair with the Dallas Morning News, said Tuesday.
Discussions of the newsroom’s unionization began in 2019 amid layoffs, but were amplified by the pandemic.
“All of a sudden, our working conditions had changed dramatically. We were fearful for our lives, just going out and doing various tasks for our jobs in the community, sharing these stories of how the pandemic influenced people and impacted people’s livelihoods. We were a part of it, too. And so we voted in October 2020 and overwhelmingly voted to unionize,” DiFurio explained.
“Just being able to meet at the table, have voices and testimony from workers who can actually share, ‘Hey, this is how it’s impacting me.’ It’s amazing when you see the company actually saying, ‘Wow, okay, let’s see if we can fix this together,'” DiFurio continued.
Getting the employer to listen after unionizing in a right-to-work state takes work, though.
“It’s interesting to watch but it by no means this automatic recognition of your union means that your workplace is suddenly going to be better. It is really kind of a first step in a longer journey,” DiFurio said.
He noted the recent influx in vocational unionizations, like journalists, health care institutions and nonprofits, but said the pandemic has also led to an increase in other sectors.
“What’s more out of the norm and interesting is the service workers. We saw in just the last two years, how service workers have been treated, how they’ve been berated how airline attendants have been attacked. It just makes sense, right? They want to be treated a little bit better,” DiFurio said.
Labor shortages coming out of the pandemic have also given more teeth to unions in right-to-work states.
“You’re seeing these unionizations or attempted unionizations as a direct response to what has happened during COVID. The fewer people there are to take jobs, the more clout a union has,” Ross explained.
The next step for the Starbucks on 24th and Nueces will be a vote, if granted by the National Labor Relations Board. That process could take months.
Starbucks issued a statement earlier this month, stating in part, “We’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed.”
The statement continues, “We respect their right to organize and will bargain in good faith.”