Tim Aylsworth | Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy
Whenever I pass through the Green Library, I marvel at the long line of people queuing up to get coffee at Starbucks. Sometimes the line gets so long that it bends around the corner, almost reaching the escalators. I’m baffled by that. Not only do other establishments serve better coffee, I can’t wait that long for my caffeine fix.
My complaint about Starbucks goes deeper than personal preference, however. As a member of FIU’s faculty, I’m keenly aware of how important it is for workers to have a voice. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a flurry of legislation aimed at eroding academic freedom, undermining tenure, and restricting classroom discussion. Faced with such attacks, we have only one resource for fighting back: the union. The United Faculty of Florida is here to help resist this onslaught, and, as a union, we’ve fought for decades to improve our working conditions.
The workers at Starbucks also realize what they stand to gain by unionizing. Since December 2021, more than 9,000 Starbucks workers have organized nearly 360 stores, and they’ve demanded that Starbucks respect workers’ fundamental right to organize and bargain a fair contract. Starbucks employees know that unionized workers enjoy better wages and benefits, and they have more say in the conditions of their employment.
Starbucks knows this too, and they don’t want to pay for it. They’ve fought bitterly to prevent workers from organizing. National Labor Relations Board administrative law judges found that Starbucks committed over 280 federal labor law violations, including 36 unlawful firings. There are 65 more official complaints pending, alleging Starbucks has committed over 1,200 specific violations of federal labor law.
This summer, Starbucks closed all three of its branches in Ithaca, New York after the workers unionized. Students at Cornell responded by occupying the administration building, demanding the university end its contract with Starbucks. By August, the students had won a massive victory as Cornell declared that it wouldn’t renew its contract with Starbucks.
If you care about the rights of workers, then you can join the fight. I’ll be standing in solidarity with Starbucks Workers United in their fight for a fair contract and a voice on the job. It’s time for Starbucks to stop union-busting and come to the table in good faith. Until then, you can find me in line for coffee elsewhere on campus. I can’t get a colada at Starbucks anyway.
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