You know how like 200 Starbucks stores have unionized since that first one in Buffalo did back in December 2021, and over 100 of those 200 all struck in unison on Red Cup Day this year because the company—which is one of the biggest private employers in the U.S. by the way—refuses to bargain with its workers in good faith and has actually fired scores of them just for exercising their federally protected right to organize on the job? What’s going on there?
So glad you asked. Today on The Fingers Podcast, exclusively for paying Friends of Fingers, I’ve got an interview with , a writer and organizer at the worker publication/organizing platform Labor Notes. He’s also the guy behind , a vital, semi-weekly round-up of American labor news. If you spend any time on Twitter… well, first of all I’m sorry to hear it, you should definitely try to stop doing that. But second of all: you have probably come across Jonah thanks to his relentless coverage of the U.S. labor movement. We first crossed paths last year when I was reporting on United Food and Commercial Workers’ six-week strike at Heaven Hill’s Bardstown, Kentucky distillery. I knew he’d be great for The Fingers Podcast because of how well he can get deep in the weeds of this or that union drive, then zoom out on what it all means for the overall landscape for workers in this country, and earlier this year, our schedules finally aligned to make it happen.
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Jonah and I spoke in October 2022 about a ton of different, related topics: his coverage of the Starbucks union drive, the importance of being honest about the health and strength of American unions, and the best way for customers to show their support for workers organizing a shop they patronize. (Spoiler alert: it isn’t a boycott, because boycotts are way harder to pull off than anybody thinks, and they almost never work!) The upshot, as he sees it: despite the rising groundswell of American public support for unions—an August 2022 Gallup poll found 71% of the country felt positive towards organized labor, for example—“workers have to really want this for this to happen.” Capital has been eating labors lunch in this country for going on five decades, and it was never a fair fight to begin with. Still, Jonah believes the brushfire campaign by Starbucks Workers United is both proof-positive that it’s still possible, and a model of how to do it. I tend to agree.
It was a wide-ranging and illuminating conversation about consumer-facing food & drink’s place in the U.S.’s sorta-resurgent labor movement, and I hope you enjoy it.
Jonah Furman is a writer and organizer with Labor Notes. He publishes Who Gets the Bird?, a newsletter of American labor news updates. Follow him on Twitter.
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