ELLICOTT CITY, MD – While the past year has seen a notable rise in unionization votes at Starbucks locations, particularly in Maryland, achieving a collective bargaining agreement remains challenging.
Since the start of the previous year, seven Starbucks stores in Maryland have cast their votes in favor of unionization. Ellicott City marked the most recent addition in late July, contributing to the nationwide total of over 330 Starbucks locations that have voted for union representation.
Despite this momentum, none of the unionized Starbucks locations in the U.S. have secured a collective bargaining agreement with the coffee giant, as highlighted in a recent report by the New York Times.
Margaret Poydock, a senior policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, underscores the inherent challenges in the current labor law framework. “Our labor law currently makes it very hard for workers to form a union,” Poydock said. “Then they have to face a lot of opposition from their employer when they form a union. If they get to the point where they win their union election, it could take years to get that first contract.”
This aligns with Starbucks’ negotiation website information, which indicates no scheduled bargaining sessions for any of its Maryland locations.
Yet, the interest in unions is undeniably growing locally and nationally. Data from 2022 reveals that the number of unionized workers in the U.S. grew by 200,000. Maryland accounted for a significant portion of this rise, with 40,000 new union members added in the state alone.
Public perception of unions has also seen a shift. Approval rates for unions now stand at over 70%, a high not seen since the 1960s.
Poydock believes that recent economic challenges have played a role in redirecting attention toward the benefits of unionization. “I think instances like the Great Recession and the Coronavirus pandemic have shown the utility of unions,” she commented. “Of collective action and how creating collective action can help improve things such as pay, working conditions, and benefits for workers.”
However, despite the surge in interest and support, many still face hurdles in joining a union. The Economic Policy Institute disclosed that in 2022, over 60 million workers wanted to join a union but could not.
As the landscape of workers’ rights continues to evolve, eyes remain on establishments like Starbucks to see how they navigate the increasing push for unionization and whether workers can secure the contracts they seek.