Vermont workers are part of growing momentum around labor unions. Why now?
Live call-in discussion: Vermont has a long history of labor activity and unions, from Barre's granite cutters of the late 1880s to today's Starbucks employees in South Burlington. This hour, host Mikaela Lefrak looks into the recent momentum behind unionizing, and what it means for Vermont and the country.
Employees at the South Burlington Starbucks have notified the company of their intent to form a union and hope workers at other stores in the state will follow their lead. Employees are seeking higher wages, more consistent schedules and better training. A Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement the company would prefer to work with employees as partners, without a union between them, but that the company has fully honored the process laid out by the National Labor Relations Board and encouraged workers to exercise their right to vote on whether to form a union.
The store is part of a nationwide unionization push at the coffee chain that began last year in Buffalo, New York, and at other companies, such as Amazon. Some labor experts say the COVID-19 pandemic brought attention to essential workers, as many people in the service industries either lost their jobs or worked through the pandemic, creating momentum for labor organizers.
- Gaz Romp, a barista and union organizer at the South Burlington Starbucks
- Marjorie Strong, assistant librarian at the Vermont Historical Society in Barre
- Jamie McCallum, associate professor of sociology at Middlebury College and author of the forthcoming book Essential: How the Pandemic Transformed the Long Struggle for Worker Justice
Broadcast live on Tuesday, May 10, at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.