"I just get coffee from there and am a big fan of unions"
The Fingers Interview with data analyst Hanna Haddad about the Starbucks Unionization dashboard
You know how you keep hearing about Starbucks workers winning a union drive at yet another location of the corporate coffee behemoth, and you’re like “damn how many shops have they won at this point?” but an up-to-date answer is tough to track down by just scrolling through Twitter, and news stories that are even even a few days old are bound to be wrong because that’s how fast this labor movement is moving?
Same here. Which is why I was delighted/relieved to stumble across Mapping the Starbucks Unionization Effort, a simple dashboard that does exactly what its name suggests. Created by Hanna Haddad, a Palestinian data analyst who works as the data visualization designer at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, this interactive portal offers a quick and easy way to check in on the status of each of the 280+ union elections for which Starbucks workers across the country have filed since baristas at the first shop to unionize won their hard-fought election late last year in Buffalo, New York. Hanna’s dashboard is a bit more approachable for casual users than the database that underpins it, which is maintained by More Perfect Union, a labor-focused digital media outlet. Both are vital, but if you’re looking for a slick one-stop-shop to visualize the ongoing labor “wildfire” sweeping Starbucks across the country, this tool is for you.
I spent some time last week playing around with the dashboard and really enjoyed it, so I got in touch with Hanna via Twitter DM to learn more about how and why he built it and how he hopes it will be used. We also spoke about his own views on the importance of labor solidarity across generation, geography, and industry sector.
Hanna’s own personal connection to the Starbucks union wave is pretty indirect. “I’ve never worked there—I just get coffee from there and am a big fan of unions and strengthening worker power,” he told me. His relationship to the labor movement is a bit more substantial: despite growing up in a somewhat anti-union family, his experiences as a unionized staffer on Senator Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign, and at the DCCC (where he and his Teamster-repped coworkers are currently bargaining for their first union contract) have convinced Hanna that unions are “the baseline for a healthy working society.” So when he learned about workers’ efforts to organize Starbucks locations across the country, he checked in with Starbucks Workers United organizers, then put his professional skills to work in hopes of helping the baristas and their supporters digest the data from the historic drive.
The result—the dashboard—is a a small but meaningful example of how digitally savvy workers can use their expertise to assist other workers’ labor actions in other sectors. “The dashboard on its face is pretty unimportant in the scheme of things,” Hanna told me. “To me, it's more important that Starbucks workers feel they're seen, supported, and encouraged to unionize. This is what I can contribute.”
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Meet Hanna Haddad, creator of the Starbucks unionization dashboard
Dave Infante, Fingers: Hey Hanna, thanks for being down to chat about your dashboard. I guess, to start: what's your relationship with Starbucks? Did you used to work there?
Hanna Haddad, creator of the dashboard: I’ve never worked there—I just get coffee from there and am a big fan of unions and strengthening worker power.
What's your relationship with unions? Are/were you a member of one? Do you come from a union family?
Nope! If anything, I probably came from a more anti-union family. It's more that it became clear that supporting unions is one step toward strengthening the working class and redistributing the wealth fairly. I was first unionized on the Warren campaign and am currently unionized at the DCCC. To me, it's the baseline for a healthy working society.
How long have you been following the Starbucks Workers United campaign? When did it first hit your radar?
Maybe a month ago? Ever since I've been hooked. I've been waiting for unions to "come back" and for Gen Z / Millennials to realize they're absolutely necessary, so I was thrilled to see unionization posts show up on my timeline.
Maybe I should’ve started with that question. How old are you?
Hah, I think I act more Gen Z, but I'm technically a Millennial.
Got it. So—the dashboard! It's great, very slick. How did you pull it together? Where did you scrape the data from?
Thank you! I build dashboards for a living, so pulling one together was really easy. It was nice being able to focus on something more narrative / aesthetically-pleasing than purely exploratory or functional. The data isn't mine—that's all thanks to the amazing people at More Perfect Union. I was able to connect to the data source they've set up and sync it with my report.
That's interesting about the dashboard having a "narrative." When you were putting it together, what narrative began to emerge? I mean, an obvious one, to my eye at least, is that these workers are winning a lot of elections.
Well, most dashboards I build tend to be tools to find information and provide analysis, but the target audience for this dashboard was substantially less technical. I figured it'd be better received if the analysis itself was more accessible. As you said, though, the narrative here really wrote itself—if they’re voting [in union elections], Starbucks workers are voting to unionize in droves. I can only hope the effort accelerates. Last I checked, there are well over 6,000 stores in the U.S.
That’s a perfect set-up for my next question. Who was the intended audience you had in mind when building this? Why did you think it was important to reach that audience with this visualization?
A lot of people came to mind. First, Starbucks organizing leadership looking for useful insights / talking points. Second, baristas on the verge of voting or not voting [in an upcoming union election] who needed some convincing / comfort to vote yes. Third, lefty data nerds casually interested in understanding the scope of the unionization effort. And fourth, progressives / leftists in need of encouragement that there is some motion toward progressive outcomes. The first two were the most important, which is why I tried to answer questions that I could imagine them asking. The expected union vote (based off previous vote information) is an example of that.
You've kind of touched on why you wanted to do this a few times, but I'm wondering if you could like, try to sum that up a bit vis-a-vis your personal definition of solidarity. Why do you view this as a solidaristic act? What does this expression of solidarity mean to you? What do you hope it means to Starbucks workers and workers generally?
I mean, at the end of the day, the only power I have in this unionization wave is one of a consumer. I can't do much unless others organize a strike and only then there's like a narrow purpose—the only strikes that have happened are when workers have been unfairly fired. So, to me, this is what I can contribute. I've spent a while building the skillset to make data visualizations of this quality, so why not spend a few hours putting together something that boosts morale and could be used to push undecideds toward a yes? It's the least I can do.
Ultimately, it's a dashboard—a bit of information and analytics. It's not one tie-breaking vote, an important endorsement that sways minds, etc. All that to say—the dashboard on its face is pretty unimportant in the scheme of things. To me, it's more important that Starbucks workers feel they're seen, supported, and encouraged to unionize. I see this dashboard as helping with that goal. At the end of the day, we all stand to benefit when we're all unionized.
It's not out of the question that someone at Starbucks corporate finds your dashboard, right? How would that make you feel if you knew they saw it? Or, asked another way: if you got the chance to present this dashboard to, say, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, what would your message be?
Give up. It's 2022 and workers are entitled to a union—every worker in every sector. Nevermind that all the union busting he's engaging in is highly illegal. I was worried about the dashboard ending up in the wrong hands, though. Prior to publishing the dashboard, I reached out to the folks at Starbucks Workers United to ensure that I wouldn't be posting anything that could jeopardize or slow down unionization efforts. They had no qualms with the dashboard—it's likely [Starbucks’] corporate offices already have their own version of this report anyway. I hope they see it. It sends such a clear message that unionization is happening overwhelmingly and quickly.
This transcript has been edited and condensed.
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