News & Commentary

March 23, 2023

Maddie Chang

Maddie Chang is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary, Trader Joe’s workers in Oakland file a petition to form a union; a Kenyan court temporarily blocks Meta contractor’s mass layoff of content moderators; and Starbucks workers at more than 100 stores walkout ahead of shareholders’ meeting. 

On Tuesday, about 150 workers at a Trader Joe’s store in Oakland filed a petition with the NLRB to hold a union election. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the Oakland workers would join a nationwide push to unionize among Trader Joe’s workers that started last May. The Oakland store would be the first location in California unionize. Organizers are responding to a number of pay and working condition issues, including an inconsistent pay-scale that creates big pay discrepancies among workers, skipped raises during the pandemic, and the company’s refusal to put in conveyor belts at registers, which would reduce physical strain on workers packing groceries. 

The Oakland effort coincides with a union push by workers at the Essex Crossing location of Trader Joe’s in Manhattan. There, workers are organizing for benefits, better safety conditions, and better pay. As the Gothamist reports, the safety issues were typified in a recent incident where sewage leaked from the ceiling. 

A Kenyan court has issued an interim injunction against Meta and its Nairobi-based outsourcing firm Sama to prevent Sama from laying off 260 content moderators. Earlier this week, 43 content moderators brought a claim against Sama for unlawful termination, saying they were being laid off for organizing a union. The workers also sued Sama competitor Majorel for blacklisting them from applying for equivalent jobs after Meta switched its sourcing from Sama to Majorel. As reported in TechCrunch, this challenge comes on the back of a suit brought by former Sama content moderator Daniel Motaung, who alleged that the Sama engaged in “forced labor and human trafficking, unfair labor relations, union busting and failure to provide ‘adequate’ mental health and psychosocial support.” 

Finally, workers at more than 100 Starbucks stores went on strike Wednesday ahead of a shareholders’ meeting today (see strike map here). As new Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan takes the reins, workers are asking shareholders to vote for a resolution that would prompt a third-party assessment of the workers’ rights against Starbucks’ own stated commitments to workers. 

Daily News & Commentary

Start your day with our roundup of the latest labor developments. See all

Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.