News & Commentary

October 25, 2022

Travis Lavenski

Travis Lavenski is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s News & Commentary, Starbucks walks out on bargaining negotiations, Amazon workers in California withdraw from union election, and Netflix music supervisors have filed for a union election.

Starbucks representatives walked out during the first day of bargaining yesterday, a move that Starbucks Workers United calls “childish delay games.” Starbucks made headlines this September for proposing bargaining dates with the union scheduled in October. At the time, the union remained cautiously optimistic about the news, noting that it was still waiting to see whether Starbucks was willing to negotiate in good faith with the union. The first day of bargaining with 5 of the recently unionized stores was cut short, however, as Starbucks representatives walked out after only a few minutes because some workers were joining the bargaining session virtually. The representatives caucused for nearly 2 hours while the workers awaited their return. Eventually, representatives for the company came back and told workers that it would only proceed if the bargaining session were conducted without the virtual component. Starbucks representatives left for the day just minutes later, and no substantive negotiations were had. Starbucks Workers United has charged the company with “trying to change the rules,” noting that the virtual component to bargaining has not been an issue with Starbucks in the past.

In Amazon news, the Amazon Labor Union has withdrawn its union election petition at the ONT8 warehouse in Moreno Valley, California. The location filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board on October 12. On October 18th, Amazon challenged the petition, claiming that the ALU misrepresented the number of workers eligible to vote and casting doubt that the union gathered the necessary 30% support to file for an election. ALU president Chris Smalls told the LA Times that the withdrawal is “nothing to worry about,” and that the union plans to resubmit an election petition after a few weeks. The ONT8 location is “a critical hub” for Amazon, and labor organizers have spent years preparing for a union push at this location. The ALU similarly withdrew its initial union petition for the JFK8 warehouse before resubmitting nearly two months later.

Finally, music supervisors at Netflix have filed for a union election with the NLRB. The music supervisors, who are seeking to be represented by IATSE, previously requested voluntary recognition from the streaming giant, which the company refused. The union drive comes as workers “responsibilities have expanded… conditions have deteriorated… and pay has stagnated.” Workers seek to address workplace issues such as fair and equal treatment, better healthcare and retirement plans, and disparate pay rates between workers. Music supervisors remain an anomaly in the entertainment industry because of their general lack of labor representation. Earlier this summer, music supervisors attempted to organize industry-wide with IATSE, with 75% of them signing union authorization cards. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) refused to voluntarily recognize the worker’s industry-wide push.

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