News & Commentary

July 12, 2022

Iman Masmoudi

Iman Masmoudi is a student at Harvard Law School.

Starbucks closes some newly-unionized stores among others, Gerald McEntee – longtime AFSCME president – dies at 87, and rising minimum wages across cities help protect workers from inflation.

SB Workers United is decrying an announcement today by Starbucks that it will close five stores across Seattle citing “safety concerns.” The stores reportedly experience high crime rates and Starbucks claims that efforts to lower these rates have been unsuccessful. The five stores include two that recently unionized, leading the Union to ask “is this bargaining in good faith?” If workers move to new stores, they will only receive representation if those new or existing stores are also unionized.

The Washington Post profiles McEntee here after his passing two days ago. The son of a street cleaner from Philadelphia, McEntee lead the largest union of state and local government employees in the United States for three decades. He was able to dramatically increase and maintain membership through efforts to change public-sector bargaining laws. While private-sector unions were declining, AFSCME maintained stable membership, and grew its political influence. By endorsing Bill Clinton in 1992 in one of the first major union endorsements, McEntee was credited with helping the Arkansas governor win the presidency. In 2011, he told National Journal: “I’ve always believed that public workers deserve a voice. There’s a price to pay when you turn your back on the middle class: Working families will rise up and organize and make our voices heard.”

The Economic Policy Institute reported yesterday that this month three States (Connecticut, Nevada, & Oregon + D.C.) and sixteen Cities & Towns raised their minimum wages to respond to the inflationary crisis. The new wage floors in Connecticut ($14.00), Nevada ($10.50), and Oregon ($13.50) were set in legislation passed in the last few years, while the District of Columbia’s minimum wage ($16.10) went up due to automatic annual inflation adjustment built into the District’s minimum wage law. Most of the city increases were due to laws that automatically raise the minimum wage with inflation each year. Responding to potential concerns, the EPI report also compiles research which shows that higher minimum wages have only small impacts on prices in industries that employ many low-wage workers and have no meaningful effect on overall price growth in the economy.

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