Audio Sources - Full Text Articles

Starbucks and Amazon’s PR nightmare is coming true as one of their combined stores pushes to unionize

Howard SchultzHoward Schultz, the founder of Starbucks.

Jim Bennett/Getty Images

  • Workers at a café jointly operated by Starbucks and Amazon are voting on a union this week.
  • About 30 Starbucks employees at the New York store will participate in the vote, Bloomberg reported.
  • It’s the latest way both companies’ images as progressive employers are being tested.

The new Starbucks Amazon Go stores that opened last year in New York City were supposed to be a dream collaboration, serving frappuccinos and grab-and-go food in stores that utilize Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology and Starbucks’ mobile ordering. 

But for some workers, the high-tech, high-profile store has created more work, not less.

Some workers say the cobranded location has “doubled their workload with no additional pay,” according to a story first reported by Bloomberg. One of the Starbucks Amazon Go stores is considering unionizing this week. Roughly 30 Starbucks employees at the Times Square location will decide on December 15 whether to join Starbucks Workers United.

Despite the automation of ordering and paying, the workers say that they now have to inform customers how the store works when they enter, Bloomberg reported. They also risk getting burns while preparing Amazon’s hot-food items, according to the report.

The union drive is the latest example of the contrast between how Starbucks and Amazon view themselves as employers and how their workers feel. Under CEO Howard Schultz, Starbucks has tried to be a “model employer,” according to a story on Schultz and unions at the coffee chain in The New York Times this month. Amazon’s former CEO Jeff Bezos, meanwhile, told employees last year that he wanted Amazon to be “Earth’s Best Employer” as well as “Earth’s Safest Place to Work.”

“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country. From the beginning, 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. We remain committed to our partners and will continue to work together, side-by-side, to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone,” a Starbucks spokesperson told Insider.

The union that would represent the employees at the Times Square store did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

Amazon warehouse workers cheer outside a fence and hold a picket sign that reads: Amazon Labor Workers Vote Yes.Amazon workers at the LDJ5 Amazon Sort Center rally in support of the union on April 24, 2022, in Staten Island, New York.

Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty Images

The union drive at the joint store is the lastest for both Amazon and Starbucks

Starbucks cafés and Amazon warehouses across the country have been on a unionization spree over the past two years.  

If the Starbucks Amazon Go workers voted to unionize, they would join about 7,000 workers who have organized at roughly 260 Starbucks cafés in the US since last year. About 330 Starbucks have held votes to unionize, according to NPR. Earlier this month, some workers at about 100 stores went on strike during Red Cup Day, when Starbucks gives customers free reusable cups for eligible holiday drink orders. The workers were protesting “short staffing and the company’s failure to bargain with union stores,” Starbucks Workers United said in a press release.

Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island, meanwhile, is the only warehouse that has unionized. Workers there held a vote earlier this year after similar warehouses in Bessemer, Alabama, and another on Long Island voted against a union.

Starbucks workers have pointed to issues including low pay and rigid work schedules in their union campaigns. Amazon warehouse workers have said the controversial practice of tracking “idle time” has led workers to skip bathroom breaks and that repeated movements tied to warehouse work lead to injury.

Starbucks Pickup Amazon Go storeA Starbucks Amazon Go cafe


Both Amazon and Starbucks have cultivated reputations as progressive employers and pushed back against unions

Both companies have painted themselves as forward-thinking on worker treatment and benefits.

In October, Amazon raised average starting pay for its front-line workers to $19 from $18 and announced a program to train workers to take jobs within Amazon Web Services.

As early as 1988, Starbucks extended healthcare coverage to part-time employees and ensured that it included domestic partnerships. Other industry-leading benefits have come in its wake, such as college-tuition coverage, 401k plans, and parental leave. Many of these benefits are rare for workers at retailers or restaurants. 

The unionization movement at Starbucks locations has shaken Schultz, who stepped in as interim CEO earlier this year. He has publicly stated he would not embrace union efforts at a company where he is known as the architect of creating progressive employee benefits.

“What’s happening in America is much bigger than Starbucks,” Schultz told The New York Times in June. “Starbucks, unfortunately, happens to be the proxy of what is happening. We’re right in the middle of it. If a company is as progressive as Starbucks, that’s done so much and at the 100th percentile, can be threatened by a third party, then anyone can.”

Read the original article on Business Insider