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The Tartine Union took over a year to be recognized. When it comes to current union pushes, we're in for the long haul.
On Tuesday, I re-released a podcast episode with members of the Tartine Union. When we originally recorded the episode in February 2020, it felt like things were moving fast. I chatted with two representatives of the union, Mason Lopez and Emily Haddad, just a few weeks after Tartine Bakery workers had announced their intention to unionize, and just one day after Tartine declined to recognize the union.
Tartine would go on to officially decline to recognize the union a month later (I’m unclear on why there were two official statements, but there were?) One of Tartine’s co-founders, Elisabeth Prueitt, would later say that she supports unions … but just not at her own company.
For a few weeks, things were moving at lightning speed—and all of a sudden they weren’t.
But that pace still wasn’t as slow as it could have been. Although COVID-19 didn’t help the unionization effort—and even though it took exactly 377 days before the union was recognized—the Tartine Union actually had a quicker timeline than most. Bloomberg Law reports that it takes, on average, 409 days for unions to reach first contracts.
For Tartine, much of that battle was spent challenging votes and pursuing litigation. An article from “On Labor” details some of these measures:
Management and the union challenged ballots, leading to weeks of “grueling litigation” in June. In October a regional board ruled on the ballots but Tartine management appealed the decision all the way to the DC Board, which rejected the appeal on March 19, 2021. On March 31st the last ten votes were unsealed which pushed the union to a 93-90 victory. A year and a pandemic later, the union won.
This excerpt came from one of the only articles I could find about Tartine after its historic union vote. The story included quotes from two Tartine workers—one of them was Haddad—and both shared that they no longer worked for the company. Although they were thrilled by the outcome of the vote, neither will actually be part of the union.
When the members of the Tartine Union first announced their intention to unionize, their efforts were covered daily in almost every local newspaper. Now, it’s hard to even find information about the aftermath of this momentous effort.
I find this striking, as someone who writes about unions. A lot. At this point, I wouldn’t blame you for being annoyed about receiving yet another post on the subject. But the reason I keep bringing it up is that people in power are counting on us to forget.
377 days is a long time to wait for someone to recognize you. If I had to guess, the current Starbucks locations that have declared their intent to unionize and are still waiting to be recognized will have to wait longer, since Starbucks has considerably more power and money to throw around, and ability to slow down union efforts through litigation.
There is some hope in the fact that there are 8,947 company-operated Starbucks locations in the United States, and each time a store decides to unionize, there’s a blip of news coverage, a reminder that we’re still in the early days of this fight. But even if a union win feels inevitable due to growing and vocal support, the delays in recognition work to the benefit of leadership and corporations.
The first Starbucks location, in Buffalo, New York, announced its intention to unionize on December 9, 2021. It’s already been 110 days. I hope we keep talking about this and don’t have to wait another year before the company takes action.
Before you go…
I’ve had a rough few weeks (mostly to do with my car being rear-ended, and the general scariness that comes from being in your first car accident) but in better news, I published a story for Salon on arroz congrí, a black beans and rice dish my grandmother makes that I’m obsessed with. I spent a long time trying to replicate hers, and I got pretttyyyyy close—if you decide to cook it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I haven’t done much else lately, but I’ll hopefully have more things to talk about in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
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