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How Corporations Crush New Unions

Trader Joe's United negotiating team with Seth Goldstein, Esq.


The New Republic featured an article by Steven Greenberg on December 18, 2023, focusing on corporations’ union-busting tactics against emerging unions at Trader Joe’s, Amazon, Starbucks, the Apple Store and REI, including delaying tactics used during negotiations. Julien, Mirer, Singla & Goldstein PLLC, a Working People’s Law Center, represents Trader Joe’s United, the Amazon Labor Union, and other new uniojns. Read the full article here: https://newrepublic.com/article/177557/trader-joes-union-busting-bargaining-table-first-contract

Excerpt below:

It’s absurd, the workers contend, that in the nearly a year and a half since the first TJ’s unionized, the two sides still haven’t reached agreement on even one economic issue, such as minimum hourly pay or the number of paid sick days. “We feel strongly that they’re not bargaining in good faith,” said Maeg Yosef, a worker in the Hadley store. “They’re absolutely trying to wear us down.”

Yosef, Ryther, and several other TJ’s workers have devoted dozens of unpaid hours to preparing for and attending bargaining sessions—hours they could have spent with their loved ones or pursuing their artistic interests or on the job earning money. At times during the eight-hour negotiating sessions, progress was so slow, and there was so much protracted debate about minuscule points that they felt like screaming. “It’s absolutely exhausting,” Ryther told me. “My brain is fried afterward.”

These Trader Joe’s employees have discovered what the workers who unionized Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, and REI facilities over the past two years have also discovered: When nonunion workers are eager to get a union contract, they have to climb not just one but two often forbidding mountains. First, they must win a unionization drive, frequently against a fiercely anti-union company; and second, often harder and taking far longer, they need to clinch a first contract….

Anti-union companies often have an ulterior motive in dragging out negotiations: They know that once a full year elapses after workers first vote to unionize, workers can petition to decertify (or vote out) the union. A corporation’s lawyers are certainly aware that if a new union fails within a year to reach a first contract that delivers better pay and benefits, frustrated workers may start pushing to decertify.

Whether or not Starbucks and its lawyers have decertification in mind, the company has moved with spectacular slowness and, like Trader Joe’s, resisted bargaining over Zoom. For nearly two years, the company failed to make a single counterproposal to the union’s many proposals. For nearly a year and a half, it also failed to put forth any of its own proposals….

When the union called for an arrangement in which some workers would meet face-to-face with Starbucks’s negotiators, while other workers, who were unable to afford the money or time to attend in person, used Zoom to watch, Starbucks all but shut down negotiations nationwide by refusing to participate. Early on, Starbucks had allowed Zoom, but then it reversed course. The company said it wouldn’t join hybrid sessions because it feared that workers would record the negotiations and then use parts of those recordings on social media to embarrass and pressure the company. A union official insisted that no workers have recorded or plan to record the sessions.

In December 2022, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against the company, saying it failed to bargain in good faith with 21 stores in the Pacific Northwest. Then, last April, the labor board filed a nationwide complaint that said Starbucks had illegally “failed and refused” to bargain at 144 stores across the United States. As for the first two upstate New York stores that unionized, the NLRB said Starbucks had “bargained with no intention of reaching agreement,” and behaved in ways “demeaning and otherwise undermining the union’s chosen representatives.”

In September in Seattle, an NLRB judge began a high-stakes trial, expected to last at least five months, that will determine whether Starbucks failed to bargain in good faith by refusing to do hybrid bargaining. After the trial began, Duran told the local media outside the hearing, “It shouldn’t take a year and a half to get to the table just because they don’t like the way that we’ve all decided that we want to bargain with the company.”