"I just get coffee from there and am a big fan of unions"
It's the crossover event you've been waiting for: Boss Barista is teaming up with Fingers to republish an interview with data analyst Hanna Haddad, who created the Starbucks unionization dashboard
Hi friends! After dropping a bonus podcast episode this week with a member of the Intelligentsia union drive, I thought I’d keep the unionization theme going in this special extra.
This week, Boss Barista is republishing an interview that originally appeared on Fingers. If you’re not already familiar, Fingers is well worth your time: Run by journalist Dave Infante, it digs into drinking culture, being online, and beyond. Dave talks about many of the same themes we discuss on Boss Barista, primarily through the lens of beer, wine, and spirits—but as you’ll see below, coffee is part of his focus, too.
Dave is a funny and insightful writer, and has some of the smartest takes on booze culture that I’ve ever read. And he’s also just a really great person. During the Substack Food Writers Intensive, Dave sat down with me and gave me tons of advice about running this newsletter, allowed me space to air out my fears (will people pay for this?), and reminded me that independent journalism is important.
An extra treat: For Boss Barista subscribers, Dave is offering 20% off a yearly Fingers subscription! Dave works really hard on his newsletter (I describe my newsletter as “mostly opinions bordering on journalism”—Dave puts in the work and does real journalism that no one else approaches like he does).
Click below for 20% off a yearly subscription to Fingers!
In this interview, Dave chats with Hanna Haddad, “a Palestinian data analyst who works as the data visualization designer at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.” You might know Hanna as the person behind the dashboard where you can map the ongoing Starbucks unionization effort. Use it to track where stores are unionizing, what percentage of stores voted in the affirmative, and keep a running tally of union votes (according to the dashboard, 73.2% of all votes cast have been pro-union).
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.