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Wake up babe, new Starbucks anti-union website just dropped!
Plus: Liquor & layoffs in the #content mines, Super Bowl ad recap, pantsdrunk & more!
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“Absolute wildfire of organizing. Defcon 1 in Seattle,” tweeted veteran HuffPost labor reporter Dave Jamieson last month as he tallied up the number of Starbucks locations nationwide that had filed for union elections with Workers United. At the end of January, the count was 54 stores in 19 states; two weeks later, organizers say those figures stand at 97 and 26. No slow burn, that. The coffee giant aggressively fought the inciting drives at three of its Buffalo-area stores in December 2021 with conspicuous in-person visits from executives, but with the labor-organizing flames lapping at its corporate control of locations across the country, a more scaleable strategy was in order.
Thus: One.Starbucks.com, a slapdash website chock-a-block with warm ‘n friendly graphics and content designed to
scare workers out of unionizing help their store “partners” (read: workers) to get “informed.” It’s a momentous occasion in the life of any corporate anti-union campaign in the online age, and though Starbucks was a bit “late to the party” (as labor reporter Kim Kelly put it drily), it made its inevitable digital debut earlier this week. Wake up babe, new Starbucks anti-union website just dropped!
Scroll through the site—decorated with cheery floral prints and warm, millennial-friendly hues—you’ll encounter familiar, soft-edged union-busting canards like:
“We know we aren’t perfect, but we believe our challenges are best addressed by working together.”
“We want you to get the facts to make the best decision before considering third-party representation.”
“[Your] continuously evolving and innovative benefits and perks come from partner feedback and conversations—the power of our direct relationship.”
And so on! For the uninitiated, these are classic anti-union talking points1 that have been honed in the anti-labor trenches by union-busting consultants and corporate executives for literal decades, which is why if you compare them to those that Amazon published during its (eventually successful) effort to beat back last year’s Alabama warehouse drive, you’ll spot a lot of similarities! The moves are simple: smear unions as interlopers; emphasize that unions are good in theory but not right for this company; raise the specter of lost benefits, wages (to dues), relationships (with managers), and upward mobility; et cetera.
As rote as this schlock is, it can be effective at turning the tide against union drives where workers haven’t been “inoculated” (to use a common organizing term) to the clever sleights-of-hand with which it’s spun.2 It’s intimidating stuff, and for American workers, the stakes are extremely high, given how badly the deck of labor law has stacked against them. Corporations can use these imbalances to beat drives and retain control over their workforces, and when faced with an organizing effort, even those firms that skew “progressive” in their customer-facing materials and stances will usually try to press those buttons behind the scenes. (See: that insane REI podcast.)
Whether it’ll work at Starbucks writ large remains to be seen as each store goes through its own election process, but some workers have already begun coordinating pushback against the rhetoric by alerting their fellow workers at other locations what to expect. “Starbucks is spending millions upon millions of dollars to hire a huge law firm to train its managers to become experts in union-busting,” wrote a New Jersey Starbucks worker in an account for LaborNotes. “You’d think they’d be better at it.”
You’d also think a corporation with such undeniable marketing savvy would’ve thought to grab lookalike domains before pushing their anti-union site live. And yet…
This is a classic troll, and it’s worth a laugh at Big Green’s expense. But as the saying (sort of) goes: “It’s all fun and games until somebody loses a drive.” Starbucks already beat one of the three Buffalo-area efforts outright, and it’s been using its deep pockets and the United States’ capital-friendly labor laws to systematically gum up the works on the ones that have followed. Time is on the corporation’s side in these fights, and Starbucks knows it. “[T]he company can outspend the union in legal fees, even if they know the lawyers are basically wasting their time,” a lawyer affiliated with Starbucks Workers United told Jamieson earlier this month. “Wasting time is the exact purpose.” Stay tuned.
📬 Good post alert
📰 On liquor & layoffs in the #content mines
Last week the Chicago Tribune sent this disorienting and wooden tweet promoting a piece of #content about the health effects of alcohol. I would say “story” but it isn’t one, just a 19-photo slideshow with big, honking captions full of SEO’d answers to basic, boring, booze-related questions. People had a lot of fun dunking on the tweet (which deserves it!) but additional context makes this a sadder tale than it might initially appear.
In February 2021, the Trib finally succumbed to a very public, very drawn-out takeover by Alden Global Capital, a rapacious hedge fund notorious for buying and gutting once-proud newspapers across the country. With that in view, this clumsy tweet and schlocky slideshow seem less like lapses in editorial judgement, and more like symptoms of the vulture-capital playbook at work.
“If you’re wondering why the Trib is shitposting, you’ve forgotten that this is Alden Global Capital’s business model. Harvest the revenue, dispose of the costly human capital investments in journalism, divest the asset when there’s nothing left,” tweeted Ramzy Nasrallah, executive editor of Ohio sports site Eleven Warriors. “It's one thing to turn your storied newspaper into a generic content mill but it's quite another to advertise that fact on main lol,” added ex-Washington Post and current newsletterer Christopher Ingraham of The Why Axis, tweeting a screenshot of a byline on the story for Tribune Content Agency, a Tribune Publishing subsidiary that… well, appears to be a pretty generic content mill!
Bleak stuff. Anyway, just another reason to get all your alcohol-related coverage and commentary from the world’s greatest boozeletter, which will never3 send bad tweets or do shitposts4, or sell out to a hedge fund.5 Ever.6
In case you missed it, we had some hungover boozeletter fun Monday discussing the beverage commercials from Super Bowl LVI. Lots of highlights, but comment of the thread goes to Friend of Fingers Molly O’Brien, regarding Bud Light NEXT’s 60-second spot (which you can watch in full above):
the Bud Light zero carb drink completely derailed my Bowl viewing because i had to google "how do they make beer with no carbs" and then found the slightly bonkers (to me) quote from a Budweiser VP that the super secret process of taking the carbs out of beer was "very, very, very, very challenging." then i started spiraling thinking about scientists working in a lab for 10 years trying to take carbs out of beer, using some kind of particle accelerator. anyway it seems like it's going to be a bad-tasting experience lol
Bud Light Next ad is a vibe, but so very clear that the agency were asked “Can you take everything that this young audience love about Euphoria and turn it into a :45 family friendly advert?”
Indeed! Anyway, thanks to all who stopped by the thread. We’ll do more of these in the future! If you want!
🧾 The Settle-Up
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The points are so predictable, in fact, that the Communications Workers of America actually published a resource, UnionBustingPlaybook.com, that tracks the contours of virtually every corporate anti-union campaign with remarkable accuracy.
One recent example: After the workers at Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery went public with their union drive in December 2021 with 80% of union cards signed, the Nashville firm (owned by Constellation Brands) managed to swing the vote for an eventual 21-to-9 union loss. “The company flipped [‘e]m,” tour guide and organizer Dylan Lancaster told Fingers after the loss.
Unless they offer me like 50 bucks, in which case, sayonara suckers!!!
I’m kidding. It’d have to be at least a hundred bucks. I’ve got bills to pay!