The Pine Bluff Commercial

Coffee tabled

Look for the union label

Just as the United Autoworkers and GM have come to an agreement everyone can live with, the cupholders in those new cars and trucks may go begging.

According to The New York Times, unionized Starbucks workers walked off the job on Thursday to press their demands for contract negotiations and spotlight their complaints over staffing and scheduling issues.

According to Starbucks Workers United—yes, there is such a thing—the strike involved thousands of workers at more than 200 stores.

(Seems like fuzzy math. To get into the “thousands” from “200 stores,” most of which remained open, each store would need at least 10 workers to strike. We’ve never been to a Starbucks with that many employees.)

So why the over-caffeinated response to working conditions at the ever-present stores across the country?

One complaint is about staffing on promotional days like “Red Cup Day” in which customers receive bright-red reusable cups if they order a holiday-themed beverage. Some of Starbucks’ workers say the company doesn’t bring in enough employees to handle the additional traffic.

Yes, it’s a complaint that the company is attracting too many customers.

Rachel Simandl, a shift supervisor at a unionized Starbucks in Chicago— where employees surprised the company by walking out early on Wednesday in advance of Thursday’s scheduled strike—said staffing problems were chronic, leaving workers exhausted and hurting business by increasing wait times for customers and lowering service quality.

But one would imagine that Starbucks didn’t become Starbucks by lowering the quality of service or by making customers wait for a cuppajoe. And Starbucks didn’t get its business reputation by treating its employees poorly.

The union says the company has refused to bargain over staffing and scheduling issues, while the company says the union insists on conducting online meetings with union members watching, rather than negotiating teams sitting down in person.

The union is calling on the company to shut down mobile orders on promotional days, which it says are more frequent. Somebody with business experience might explain that sales from these promotional events improve profits.

And help pay employees.

NB: Most Starbucks employees are not unhappy enough to join the union. The company sells their frothy high-calorie caffeinated (and non-) drinks at 9,300 stores nationwide. Of those stores, only 434 have voted on unionization; 71 of those rejected it. Only 363 stores are unionized.

The number of unionized employees in this nation has been falling for a few decades. Maybe it’s because so many Americans like the idea of their companies getting more customers, and they understand when that happens, everybody in the company benefits.