Workers are taking on two of the biggest union-busters in America. Starbucks and Amazon opened a new store together in Times Square where workers are expected to do two jobs for the same pay. Now the workers are unionizing with Starbucks Workers United to fight back. Some of the organizers spoke to More Perfect Union about their union drive. A full transcript of the video is below.
Aaron Cirillo: To have Starbucks, the biggest coffee chain, and Amazon, the biggest retail chain, in the same roof, with me working there… It’s dystopian.
Hal Battjes: Two of the most anti-union, anti-worker corporations in all of America.
Greyson: They make us do twice the work, for the same amount of pay, so…
Joseph McElhaney: It’s hard work. I wanna see Howard Schultz do this shit.
Hal: At the end of the day we don’t see anything from Amazon. We don’t see any money from Amazon. But there is money being made here on our backs.
Workers at a hybrid Starbucks-Amazon store in Times Square are organizing to form a union.
Greyson: It was originally framed to me by my manager as this “opportunity” that I had the “option” to go to.
Aaron: “Oh, they’re opening up a new Starbucks AmazonGo. And they’re trying to bring partners from all across the city to work at this Starbucks because you’re “the best of the best.”
Greyson: And I said, if there’s no additional pay, what reason do I have to go to this new store? Let me think about it. He never got back to me. I just got sent there a couple weeks later to do the training.
Workers at the store are paid standard Starbucks wages while doing unpaid labor for Amazon.
Hal: It really is like working two different jobs.
Joseph: Directing customers to Starbucks and to AmazonGo as a concierge, cleaning the whole store, stocking everything. Amazon, they don’t have their own people stocking it, so Starbucks workers have to do it.
Aaron: Amazon pays Starbucks for the labor, but they don’t pay the workers for the labor. We get paid the same base pay as any other starbucks.
Hal: The money isn’t the problem. It’s not that they don’t have enough money to pay us.
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Hal Baatjes: I have to do all their little dirty work every single day for my $16 just to pay my rent and live here every day.
Aaron: This is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the country, Times square.
Joseph: It’s a mess, honestly, it’s really a mess.
Greyson: Maybe there’s three of us making drinks. How are we getting 400 items out, per half hour? Everyone just crashes into each other constantly, managers checking our times.
Aaron: “You need to get this out on time, why are you not getting hot foods out on time?”
Greyson: Hot food wall, for the Amazon section, these two huge ovens.
Aaron: Partners have been burned because of the lack of space back there, the lack of health and safety standards back there.
Hal: I actually do enjoy working in a cafe. I just really am miserable at this store because of all of these extra tasks that I’m not compensated for. I’m getting ripped off every single day, and I feel that sentiment from my coworkers as well.
Workers filed for a union election in October. They’re already facing a union busting campaign.
Hal: I was awarded a very prestigious award from starbucks, which is called “partner of the quarter.” My managers gifted me this award at a store meeting, and they said “the vote was unanimous, we love you, you’re such a hard worker.” All this and a bag of chips, it was awesome. But the second I was known as being part of the organizing committee of the union, it was completely different.
I was public enemy number one. My managers wouldn’t look me in the eye. They treated me like dirt. I had been called into the office three times for wearing a union shirt, which is a federally protected right.
Greyson: It’s not a surprise that Starbucks does not want us to unionize. Starbucks and amazon are notorious for union busting and having horrible working conditions for their workers.
Aaron: They say we’re partners, but I don’t feel like a partner. I feel like a servant.
Joseph: I do believe that if Amazon and Starbucks combined, we unionize together, that butterfly effect can actually take effect; you need one person to inspire another person to inspire another person, and that whole chain keeps going.
Hal: It feels like a big slap in the face to those CEOs, and an inspiring story for all those workers out here that are scared of these huge corporations. At the end of the day, they’re more scared of us than we should be of them.
Videography by Evan Carter