MBW 815: Now With Less Potato

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I’ve been following the Starbucks unionization efforts with some interest. As a former barista, I can certainly sympathize with the workers. I also grew up in a family that owned a small business, so I’m sympathetic to small business owners. I have less sympathy for a company like Apple that generates more than a billion dollars of profit every single week. They could easily afford to make Apple stores the most coveted retail job in the world by treating their associates better than anyone else.


I’ve seen it both ways.

In Germany, the employer can’t stop a union forming, although I’ve seen them bring in lawyers to “discuss” what unionisation means in an open forum and I’ve seen key employees bribed (sudden plethora of people getting company cars, “star” employees getting a laptop as a thank you for hard work etc.)

On the other hand, where I am at the moment, one site is unionised (the site was bought from another company and the staff were already in a union) and another unionised itself. The employer said there was no need, but got out of the way and let them get on with it. They unionised to get bargaining for a pay rise, the employer said that if the employees had just come to them and asked, they would have agreed to the terms the union wanted. At the third site, the employer put in an employee council, which has the same powers and bargaining as the union would have, but without all the overhead of union fees etc. Free election among the employees for reps and the staff can ask for what they want and it is discussed civily with the management. To be honest, it works more smoothly than the unionised sites. But we have a good employer.

One of the reasons the unions demands could be easily met is that we are paid on the basis of an industry tariff and the employer already voluntarily pays more than the tariff rates, so the union didn’t really have much of a bargaining position.