Union brew: Mary Peltola wants Starbucks baristas to organize

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Rep. Mary Peltola likes her coffee hot and unionized. She also likes her Twitter feed to be all about unions — most of the activity there is to retweet and repeat union messages, Very little is about “fish, family, and freedom.”

This week, she stepped into the Starbucks union wars and retweeted a rainbow-adorned message from a national union working to organize Starbucks coffee shop employees, one store at a time.

It’s going to cost Starbucks shoppers. Drink prices at Starbucks already run about $4.98 for 16 ounces of macchiato, which is about 30 cents an ounce — or 15 cents a sip.

If you paid that much to gas up your Subaru, it would amount to about $40 a gallon. But if you just make a latte at home, it costs you about 30 cents, not counting the paper cup.

While Peltola’s campaign staff was not unionized, the short-lived campaign for Senate by Al Gross in 2020 made history in Alaska when he announced his staff would unionize. Alaskans can expect that this time around, Peltola’s campaign will indeed unionize, since her campaign manager and chief of staff is a union organizer.

Prices for coffee at Starbucks continue creep up year after year, and unionization always drives costs up — costs that are passed along to consumers.

According to a 2014 study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, non-unionized private companies paid workers $29.83 per hour in wages and benefits, while union worker averaged $46.50 per hour. This represents a 55% increase in wages for union workers.

In 2023, Starbucks pays a minimum wage of $15 per hour, while baristas make about $23 an hour at stores in Seattle. Anchorage Starbucks pays between $16-18 for baristas, so they’re going to need roommates to help with the rent in Anchorage.

Indeed.com says Starbucks pays about $27,000 a year for a barista in Ketchikan, where a two-bedroom apartment can run you $1,900 a month.

While it does not include the average of $1 per hour in tips, clearly, being a barista not a career job, although with unionization, it might become one.

Union dues vary by region, according to the Starbucks Workers United group that is leading unionization.

“As an example, in the Buffalo region of New York the union dues for full time workers are $10.84 per week,” the group says. For an average worker, that means about one half hour of every week will go to paying the union. It’s $43.50 a month and over $530 a year.

“Dues are used for helping other workers organize, legal support, staff support, education training sessions for stewards, communications, lost time pay for stewards and negotiating committee members, etc.,” the union reports.

Unionization leads to automation

As wages rise, companies turn to machines to do the work, and it’s likely that barista jobs will not grow, as companies look for alternatives to troublesome and costly organized labor.

“Most in the coffee industry agree that increased automation at all stages of the supply chain is undeniable. Indeed, according to a recent UCC Coffee report, the global automation market is forecast to grow by as much as 30% by 2025,” writes Jess Palmer writes at New Ground Magazine.

“Humans are often the weakest part of making coffee,” explained the 2018 World Barista champion, Agnieszka Rojewska to the publication. “There is a lot of staff rotation in cafés and baristas are not always properly trained. I think fully automatic machines will grow in popularity because while they can replace the hand of the barista in some cases,” she said. The barista would spend more time interacting with customers, while the machines do the work.

But, as with McDonalds, automation could come fast at entry-level workers. In 2022, the fast-food chain, which serves a decent cup of black coffee for half of a Starbucks equivalent, unveiled its first nearly fully automated franchise in Texas, where machines take orders, deliver the order, and even prepare much of the order.

“When you step inside the test restaurant concept, you’ll notice it’s considerably smaller than a traditional McDonald’s restaurant in the U.S.,” McDonald’s said in December. “Why? The features—inside and outside—are geared toward customers who are planning to dine at home or on the go.”

McDonalds has slashed its workforce by 50% from 2013 to 2018, and this year is cutting many administrative jobs. As unionization has taken hold, the move toward artificial intelligence and machine service is filling in rapidly at all levels, including payroll, ordering, and finance.

“It should be noted that McDonald’s’s reduction in staff began in 2014, the same year the Affordable Care Act went into effect. This was no coincidence. Nor was the installation of digital kiosks, which reportedly were installed as part of a $2.4 billion expansion effort. That’s a lot of money. But those costs have two important benefits: they are one-and-done, and they are predictable. Unlike the cost of labor, McDonald’s doesn’t have to worry about these prices doubling on the whim of politicians,” writes the Foundation for Economic Freedom.

61 COMMENTS

  1. I think she forgets what her job is and its mot unionizing private industries. She is a disgrace to Alaska.

    • According to Starbucks SEC filings, the first fiscal quarter of 2023, the company repurchased 1.9 million shares of its common stock, valued at $191,400,000. Starbucks forecasted it would “return $20,000,000,000 to shareholders by the end of fiscal 2025” between regular buybacks and dividends. On the other hand, initial notice of the reversion was tucked away on page 71 of the company’s annual report, released on January 27th; the initial set of buybacks were listed beneath the main financials in the quarterly report.

      The buried about-face on buybacks stands in stark contrast with the flourish and news coverage that accompanied Schultz’s announcement of the suspension upon his return to the company in April 2022. In a publicly released memo to Starbucks employees, the billionaire promised that spending less on enriching major shareholders every quarter would allow the company to “invest more profit into our people and our stores.”

      At that point, Starbucks had already begun to fire workers that had been leading the unionization effort at stores across the country. When that failed to slow Starbucks Workers United’s momentum, Schultz, a longtime opponent of organized labor, returned for the third time as CEO to lead a more forceful — and largely illegal — response to the union drive.

      Mary Peltola should be commended for her support of Starbucks unionization, not demonized as so many billionaire enablers here are unaware or oblivious to, the much BIGGER picture.

      • You communists own the Executive Branch and the National Labor Relations Board; if the company’s actions were illegal, you had remedy available. You’re simply lying.

  2. As an aside, it’s very easy to not shop at Starbucks. They serve mediocre coffee and it’s because of them that people even believe there’s such thing as a “16 oz macchiato.”

  3. I stopped caring about Starbucks (and spending@Starbucks) when they raised their reward tiers to 100 points for a cup of drip coffee (2 pts acquired for every $1 spent = $50 for that “free” cup of coffee). 200 points needed for that free Latte’ (or $100 spent to get those 200 points). To each their own. If they automate the process, then will they lower the price of coffee and coffee drinks since they don’t have to pay for benefits or keep that many employees? I doubt it. See how much groceries have gone down in price with self checkout stations.

  4. It’s undeniable, the Democrat Party is now the Communist Party and Peltola is the latest useful idiot.

  5. Anybody does any work for typhoon? Mary needs to charge her the going rate plus 100%. She needs to pay for everything she does. Nobody should do any work for her unless she pays more than the going rate. She is sticking her nose into everything.

  6. Unions are protected by the 1st Amendment (peaceable assembly), but not the 2nd—unions are not well regulated, and another name for a militia that is not well regulated is a terrorist group. Constitutuonal Sherrifs in the lower 48 (Alaska does not have Sherrifs) and District Attornies in Alaska should start pressing charges against union organizers and members. Ironically, the 13th Amendment can then be used to return these people to their workplaces, free of cost.

    I often tell my friends in the local 341 and 302 that their wages are too high, and they should be paid less so their company can earn more profit. The working class in America is a parasite on the economy: we have a stock owning class, a property owning class, and a management class. The lower classes are servile to the ownership class, and tax monies funding things like public schools, health care, transportation, and culture are stealing from the people who own the money and funding decadent lifestyles for people who don’t deserve it. Luckily the GOP will have full control of the House, Senate, Whote House, and Supreme Court in 2024, and the founder’s goal of a Republic governed by democratically elected autocrats and corporate control of the economy and its hourly employees can be realized.

    • This is mindless drivel. Unions are not protected by the 1st Am. as unions qua unions, and you obviously don’t understand either unions or the US Constitution. Go do some reading, child.

      • This is a troll Art. she’s mocking the fact that the author dare critique unions, which is a direct affront to the religion of progressivism.

      • Unions are legal, except when they aren’t, but I don’t expect a communist like you to understand the law!

        • Do you actually read what you post? “Unions are legal, except when they aren’t” ???????? If you can not make a coherent argument, why waste everyone’s time? As for calling Art a communist, you should look up the definition and actually understand what you read! But hey thanks for the laugh!

  7. Another Great move Peltola! More political backing for you and less revenue for starbucks as my family and friends buy our coffee elsewhere. Not only does their coffee suck their environment is worse. One employee that was learning to make coffee and half a dozen thirsty customers was more than I could handle with prices fit for a fool! The ones I have visited in Freds were so poorly managed It was a waste of time.

  8. Her reelection slogan:
    Grift, MY family, and unions.

    Honestly, it’s hard not to be impressed with the sheer audacity of this. I ran as one thing, I’m grifting hard doing another, and there’s not a damn thing Alaska can do about.

    Thanks to RVC and the ego of Sarah Palin, it will take a minor miracle to blast her out.

  9. It’s insane how much fast food employees and baristas are making these days. It makes it near impossible for small businesses to compete. When a small business can only pay $11 an hour and offer limited benefits, but fast food starts at $16-18 an hour and likely offers benefits. These jobs aren’t meant to be long term careers that pay a full rent/mortgage. They’re supposed to be a high school/college job, when you’re living at home with parents or have roommates to split rent with. It’s not supposed to be a career. It’s a stepping stone job.

    • It’s actually not.

      You pay what the market demands. When so many people are sitting out the lower tier jobs, the market says pay more or automate if you want to stay in business.

      My guess is this will force automation/
      self service in the industry. Have you been to fast food outside of blue states? Fewer staff, more self service kiosks.

      • I don’t eat fast food. I just see the “now hiring” signs as I pass by, usually with a dollar amount advertised.

    • Most states don’t allow teenagers to work at fast food anymore as age restricted . I agree they temporary jobs at one time . 1 in 4 teenage jobs were at McDonalds thirty years ago !

  10. Plain and simple, unionization is a good idea…FOR SKILLED LABOR and the trades.

    Starbucks baristas do not qualify.

    A good carpenter, electrician, plumber, machinist, etc. will always have bargaining power. Unskilled labor is eminently replaceable by machinery, robotics, or scabs.

    Starbucks would have the option of either paying more for unskilled labor or replacing them; I’m pretty sure what path they’d choose.

    Whether you like it or not, skilled labor is still the bedrock of a healthy middle class. Talk all the trash you want, and nearly all of trash comes from jealous people without trades, unions were one of the things that kept this nation from developing a socialist tradition.

    I’ve been union, I’ve been management. I can tell you as a boss that a unionized workforce is pretty easy to deal with for ethical managers. Nearly all unions I know of do a good job of both policing their own and representing the interests of their members.

    Don’t like unions? Cry me a river.

    • That’s nice, but let’s please differentiate between private and public sector unions. Private sector unions negotiate with their respective company bosses to get a good deal, but not put them out of business (unless you are the united autoworkers, who had to learn that the hard way) Public sector unions however negotiate with the very politicians they helped elect with their contribution, mostly to the serious detriment of the taxpayer at large.
      As for Mary Peltola, she should quit moonlighting for the unions, keep her nose out of the business of a private company and instead actually do her day job.

        • Why are public unions illegal? The 1st amendment states “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. So, that seems to cover government employees to assemble and form a union to resdress their constitutionally protected rights. Its those pesky private unions who have the arrogance to demand things from their capitalist masters. In the good old days, rich people were allowed to send Pinkertons to workers homes to arrest them.

          • First: Public sector unions ARE NOT illegal. Please work on your reading comprehension.
            Second: Public sector unions have an inherent conflict of interest. They are negotiating against the citizens they supposedly serve, while heavily donating to the very people (elected politicians), who sit on the other side of the negotiations table. Furthermore demands for higher pay and better benefits are NOT grievances covered under the 1st amendment, as they do NOT address government policy or laws, that apply to all citizens.
            Take a constitution course will ‘ya!

    • Many skilled labor unions have excellent training programs and care about the work their members perform. I wish they would stay out of politics though. Definitely a big difference between skilled labor unions, public employee unions, and just random unskilled labor unions.

  11. Robo-barrista makes coffee so fine
    Robo-barrista is always on time

    Robo-Barrista! Robo-barrista!

    Robo-barrista don’t give no lip
    Robo-barrista don’t need no tip

    • Only a matter of time until somebody offers an attractive bikini-clad robot to hand you the cup; maybe an all-new version of coffee, tea, or me.

    • There was an automated machine at the George R Brown convention center in Houston when I was there for the NRA convention. It could make all kinds of the foo foo coffee as ordered

  12. And to think that her husband Buzzy just folded up Governor Dunlealy like a hanky and poked him in his pocket, disguised as a carbon credit deal.

  13. Give them enough rope and they’ll hang themselves. The unionization of employees could pull Starbucks into bankruptcy which would be good for independent coffee shops, cafes, and drive throughs. Where the coffee is roasted correctly, and not burnt beans. And where local folks run more businesses adding to the local economy instead of corporate fat cats, with their carbon burning private jets and 20,000 sf mansions. The silver lining to unionization could mean extinction. With Starbucks, I am hopeful. As for the witch, time to get on the broom and fly the heck out of public disservice.

  14. A real Barista who knows how to efficiently make expresso type drinks is hard to find. Lots of inexperienced people behind Expresso makers and counters simply don’t know what they are doing and the drink they produce is not worth the money.
    And these so called Baristas work in most of the high dollar coffee shops in Anchorage. And they are trained by people that had no training.

  15. Question: How in **** did we end up with her?
    Answer: We were “hoodwinked” by the ranked choice voting crowd and then could not figure out how to vote our values and best interests in the last election.

    Nick Begich would never have pulled the stunts she and her grifting husband have pulled.

    Let’s get the right in the next election, Alaskans!

    • Sure. Grab a repeal signature booklet and go collect 200 signatures. Then, buy a one-way ticket and send Sarah Palin to Nambia.

  16. Starts out with this and ends with them wanting seats on the board and pieces of the company.

  17. Go to a Starbucks and watch the process…it won’t be hard to finish automating it. And the brewed coffee was expensive and undrinkable the last time I bought it and that was at a real Starbucks in Seattle. My home percolator makes better coffee for next to nothing.

  18. Sooner than later “private unions” will realize as the minority community should have known by now they are pawns every electoral cycle, once cycle is complete they gained zero~just promoted the leftist elites. Govt unions win, the private unions will soon suffer.

  19. Sooner than later “private unions” will realize as the minority community should have known by now they are pawns every electoral cycle, once cycle is complete they gained zero~just promoted the leftist elites. Govt unions win, the private unions will soon suffer.

  20. Just another day, proving – demonstrating she’s a complete moron, devoid of any measure of … Logic, Reason, and/or Common Sense.

  21. Getting into a union is easy… getting out is very difficult! The public union workers don’t have to join due to the Janas decision but because Alaska is not a Right to work state All private employed union workers must join their company union if voted in by 51% OR be fired from their job…. A very sad system for the other 49% who voted no.

  22. If you have to have all the sugar, flavorings and whip cream and all the flavorings in a cup, there isn’t much coffee in a cup. People who are sugared to death with all the sugar drinks(sodas and, yes your energy drinks has alot of the same garbage as SB coffee has. What you’re drinking(SB) is a few drops coffee and loads of artificial flavorings and al the extra fluff. ON top of that supporting a very leftist, WOKE company.

  23. Starbucks are closing all over America at an alarming rate ! Mostly because of business districts in large cities are collapsing like San Fransisco . Folks are working from home . McDonalds are closing all over the country and many franchisees are filing bankruptcy . State mandated Minimum wage in Ca. and Virginia mandated at $22 per hour .

  24. Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks. She will AI the workers right out of a job

  25. At a time when the disposable dollar is at a lifetime low for most people, it’s questionable logic to try to unionize now.

    Anything which drives up the price of non essential goods and services should be avoided like plague.

    Especially in an industry already overrun with competitors.

  26. Thanks Palin. Hope you enjoyed your moment in the sun as you handed the election to the commie Peltola. And thanks, Palinbots!

  27. I will say it again, Peltola was elected because so many conservatives could not comprehend how rcv works. Not enough of you/ us made the choice to vote for both Palin and Begich. Got it? I didn’t think so. Perhaps I will try again some other time. Or not. Stupid is as stupid doe’s. Have at it.

  28. Everytime I see another mindless maneuver by a Democrat fool named Mary Peltola……….I’m reminded of only one person…….
    .
    Sarah Palin.
    .
    Guilty as charged!

  29. Unlike Dan Gilbertson, If Starbucks are closing all over America I find it gratifying rather than alarming.
    1. Their coffee is horrible.
    2. Their coffee is horrible
    3. They are a woke company whose politics I should not know in the first place
    4. Now that I know their politics, I disagree wholeheartedly.
    5. Did I mention, their coffee is horrible?

  30. A friend in the Lower 48 asked me how independent Alaskans ended up with this freak of a congresswoman Peltola. I answered:
    .
    Sarah Palin and RCV.

  31. A. Bethel is a scab town.
    B. Why is this idiot trying to unionize barista’s all over the US? (why not unionize Bethel?)
    C. Drink KALADI!! …. it’s better, way better & it’s our own ANC company.

  32. I never cease to be amazed at how many fools can’t figure out how to to make rank choice voting work for them. Did you all throw away the card sent to you explaining rcv. Or are just too stupid to understand it? Or perhaps you’re actually a democrat and just don’t know it.

  33. All I can say is stop trying to make people pay “living” wages to fast food, barista’s etc. These jobs should be taken up as a starter positions with starter pay as a first step in the ladder to higher wages. Going going gone is the motivation to earn higher pay…

  34. I feel the need to boycott Starbucks no matter the locale; Kaladi is the go as it’s excellent java minus the ‘Bucks attitude. Pelotola’s probably get deep discounts at ‘Bucks….hmmm?

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