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Unionizing Starbucks, Inspired by Bernie Sanders


Starbucks is allowing employees who work at least 20 hours a week to get health coverage, more generous than most competitors, and said it will increase the average hourly wage for employees to nearly $17 an hour by this summer, well above the industry standard. The company is also offering to pay tuition fees for accepted employees to pursue an online bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University, which helps it attract workers with college aspirations.

These people, in turn, tend to sympathize with trade unions and a variety of social activity. A recent Gallup poll found that people under 35 or liberals are more likely than others to support unions.

Many Starbucks workers seek unionization in Buffalo; Boston. Chicago; Seattle. Knoxville, Tenn; Tallahassee, Florida; The Denver area seemed to fit that profile, saying they were either staunch supporters of Sanders and other progressive politicians, attended college, or both. Most of them were under the age of thirty.

“I got involved in political organizing, the Bernie Sanders campaign,” said Brick Zurek, a union campaign leader at Starbucks in Chicago. “It gave me a lot of skill.” Mix. Zurek, who uses gender-neutral compliment nicknames and pronouns, also said they both have BA.

“I admire the progressive, sense of community” of politicians like Mr. Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, said Lynne Harris, who helped lead a campaign at Starbucks near Denver. She said she graduated from college and is awaiting graduate admission decisions.

Most unionists have drawn inspiration from their colleagues in Buffalo. Sidney Dworkin and Rachel Ybarra, who help organize Starbucks in Seattle, said workers in their store discussed the Buffalo campaign nearly daily as it unfolded, and that one reached out to the union after the National Labor Relations Board announced the initial results of the campaign. Buffalo elections in December. (The union’s second win was announced Monday, after the Labor Council resolved polling challenges.)

Ybra said the victory showed workers the possibility of forming unions despite the company’s opposition. “The people of Buffalo became superheroes,” she said. “Many of us have spent far too long in fear of reprisal — none of us can afford to lose our jobs, or cut our hours.”