NewsUS labor dispute: Union entry at Starbucks, mass layoffs...

US labor dispute: Union entry at Starbucks, mass layoffs at Kellogg's

US companies are currently using numerous strategies to prevent their employees from joining unions. But these resist.

New York – In Germany it wouldn’t be worth reporting – in the USA it is a small sensation: The workforce at a Starbucks branch in Buffalo voted on Thursday (December 9th, 2021) to join a union. This makes the café in the US state of New York the first and only unionized location among the 9,000 branches of the coffee chain in the country. Anti-unionism, so-called “union busting”, has a long tradition in the USA and Starbucks also tried to prevent its branch in Buffalo from joining the union – but in vain.

The workers prevailed and had previously received prominent political support. Two days before the historic vote, Senator Bernie Sanders (Democrats) said in an online discussion board, “Starbucks is not a poor company. Last year Starbucks had enough cash to pay its CEO Kevin Johnson an annual salary of $ 14.7 million. That is 1,200 times what they pay their average employee. ”Sanders is one of the US politicians who, along with other progressives, is the most advocate for social justice. Although he describes himself as a democratic socialist, by German standards he is a social democrat.

Wave of strikes in the USA: Kellogg’s announces mass layoffs

The USA has been experiencing a wave of strikes since October, all over the country work is being stopped in various sectors in order to increase the pressure on the respective employers – sometimes with great perseverance. For more than two months, all US production plants of the breakfast cereal manufacturer Kellogg’s in several states have been on strike. Since the workers rejected Kellogg’s offer of agreement, the company has now announced that it will replace the approximately 1,400 striking union members with new workers.

As a result, the White House published a statement from US President Joe Biden on Friday (December 10th, 2021) in which he condemned the Kellogg’s plan. Biden sees it as “an existential attack on the union, the jobs and the livelihood of its members”. Joe Biden’s track record in advocating for unions and fairer wages has been mixed since he took office. He has promised several times that he would be the most union-friendly president the country has ever seen. However, there has been a lack of implementation so far.

US President Biden wants to support unions: Members earn 13 percent more

Rebecca Givan, a professor of labor research at Rutgers University in New Jersey, told The Guardian: “Supporting unions is a win-win for Joe Biden. In doing so, he is addressing his electorate and what, in his opinion, is our country’s most important problems – not least economic inequality and it creates broader support for democrats who are elected across the country. “

As early as April, Biden set up a task force by decree to strengthen the rights of workers and trade union organizations. The relevant document shows that union members in a comparable position earn around 13 percent more than non-unionized workers.

Unions in the US: Fight for Labor Rights and Equal Treatment

You will also experience significantly fewer violations of labor standards, such as: B. Withholding of wages by employers or health and safety hazards in the workplace. Additionally, 60 percent of the US’s 16 million union members are women and / or people of color. According to a September poll by the Gallup Institute, 68 percent of Americans are in favor of: inside unions, the highest level in more than 50 years. Yet only 9 percent of adults are union members.

Although politicians have not yet achieved any noteworthy results, workers in the US actively stand up for their rights and put pressure on employers. A five-week stoppage of approximately 10,000 workers at the agricultural machinery manufacturer John Deere was recently ended, during which 14 branches mainly in the states of Iowa and Illinois were on strike. The members of the United Auto Workers, the automobile union, only accepted the third offer from John Deere and then went back to work.

“Our members’ courageous willingness to strike for better living standards and a safer retirement resulted in a breakthrough agreement and setting a new standard for workers not just within the UAW but across the country,” said the union’s agricultural machinery director, Chuck Browning.

US threatens health sector strike: Agreement on four-year contract

In the health sector, the threat of a strike by around 30,000 employees recently was enough to negotiate a better collective agreement. It was feared that nurses, pharmacists, midwives, physiotherapists and other members of the health sector would picket if no agreement had been reached. Work stoppages were planned in several states. A four-year contract was agreed beforehand, which provides for wage increases every year until 2025. The agreement also includes health and retirement provisions as well as the possibility of bonus payments.

With the US currently experiencing a labor shortage, conditions are favorable for workers to demand better pay and working conditions, as well as joining a union. But in the long term, this requires a legal basis: The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, PRO Act for short – the most union-friendly bill that has been introduced into Congress since the 1930s.

New union law in the US: Republicans thwart new law

The House of Representatives, which is dominated by the Democrats, passed it in March, but in the Senate the opposition Republicans and the conservative Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema are preventing its final adoption. The PRO Act would, among other things, eliminate some of the most effective anti-union tactics used by US corporations and give federal and state employees the right to unionize.

Joe Biden supports the PRO Act, but in order to pass it, he would have to campaign for the elimination of the filibuster rule in the Senate and put pressure on the recalcitrant Senator Sinema. Then he could do what the Starbucks employees in Buffalo have already done – against all odds, to strengthen employee rights. (Johanna Soll)

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