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Today’s News and Commentary — June 13, 2022

In today’s news and commentary, the Starbucks union says CEO Howard Schultz broke labor laws, a nonprofit pressures Tesla to respect union rights, and a wow The report covers Chris Smalls, one of the Amazon warehouse organizers who “made unionization great.”

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made headlines last week when, in a public interview with the New York Times, said “no” to the possibility of “embracing the union”. Now, Starbucks Workers United, the union that represents Starbucks workers in more than 100 stores across the country, has filed charges with the NLRB against the company. The union alleges that Schultz, through his comments, illegally threatened to “refuse to bargain in good faith” with the union and told workers that unionizing would be pointless. (A Starbucks spokesman insisted he would continue to deal in good faith.) What follows now is an NLRB investigation into the claim.

Tesla is under some pressure to respect workers’ organizing rights, according to a Bloomberg article published last Friday. Ahead of Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting, Share, a Canadian nonprofit organization, recently introduced a resolution urging the company to “adopt and publicly disclose a policy” committed to respecting workers’ association rights. The request arrives a week later CNBC reported that the electric vehicle maker had hired a consulting firm to monitor its employees for discussions of unfair labor practices and an ongoing workplace harassment lawsuit. Tesla founder Elon Musk has also had his fair share of run-ins with federal labor law and unions. Last year, musk tweeted that the slogan of the United Auto Workers should be “Fighting for your right to steal money from workers!” Months earlier, the NLRB ruled that Tesla had violated federal labor law by “coercively interrogating” and retaliating against pro-union employees.

A new report in Washington Post Take a closer look at Chris Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), the group that helped spearhead the historic organizing effort at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island in early April. The piece follows Smalls after the Staten Island victory. It provides an overview of how Smalls got here, from his efforts to protect facility workers at the height of the pandemic to his controversial demonstrations outside Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s many mansions. The report also features Smalls’ core organizing team, made up of warehouse workers whom he had supervised on Staten Island or who had joined him in protest. It also describes the immense difficulty of organizing the trillion-dollar economic giant, especially when workers are concerned that exercising their labor rights will “jeopardize their jobs.” The article highlights the wave of workers across the country, not just from Amazon, but Walmart, Target and Dollar General, who have been inspired by what ALU was able to accomplish months ago. But it also suggests that there is still a long way to go. The report contrasts the successful organizing effort at the JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island with the failed union vote at the LDJ5 facility just weeks later.

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