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Why is Starbucks the fulcrum for the modern organized labor movement?

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Starbucks Workers United logo.
Starbucks Workers United logo.

Workers at six Starbucks stores in the San Antonio area have unionized in the past 18 months. The union activity was the result of workers seeking to improve working conditions and wages.

Unionization efforts at Starbucks and other major fast food chains in the United States face significant challenges due to the legal and cultural climate surrounding labor unions.

Starbucks has been a focal point for the modern labor movement. It is one of the largest coffee chains in the world, with over 30,000 locations in more than 80 countries. The company employs hundreds of thousands of workers, which gives the labor movement a large target to organize and negotiate with.

Starbucks has built a reputation for being a socially responsible company, which includes providing healthcare benefits and stock options to its employees. However, many workers have criticized the company for not living up to this reputation and for engaging in unfair labor practices, such as understaffing and low wages.

Starbucks is a leader in the coffee industry, and its labor practices can have a significant impact on other coffee chains and retailers. If Starbucks were to improve its labor practices, it could set a precedent for other companies to follow, leading to a broader transformation in the industry.


Josh Peck, Texas Public Radio News Technology & Entrepreneurship Reporter

Seiya Wayment, San Antonio based union organizer

John Logan, PhD, professor of labor and employment studies in the College of Business at San Francisco State University.

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet@TPRSource.

*This interview will be recorded on Monday, March 6.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi