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National Labor Relations Board

Houston’s first unionized Starbucks

Well done.

A Starbucks in Houston’s Upper Kirby neighborhood has become the first in the city to form a union, and the 10th in Texas, after an organizing drive that began in July.

The results of store’s union election were announced Thursday by the National Labor Relations Board. Eleven associates at the store, located on Shepherd Drive at Harold Street, voted in favor of the union. Three opposed and one ballot is being contested by Starbucks. The lead organizer, Josh DeLeon, said the contested ballot could be his own; he said he was fired Saturday, the last day of voting.

“I really don’t think the outcome is what (Starbucks) expected. I think they predominantly thought it was just myself, leading the organizing,” said DeLeon, referring to management. “I was not surprised and I don’t think anyone in the store was surprised. If anything, we were a little surprised at the three “no” votes.”

The Houston workers were backed by Starbucks Workers United, a collective of company employees organizing Starbucks stores across the country. Starbucks Workers United has the support of Workers United Upstate, a New York-based affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. Employees at a Buffalo, N.Y., Starbucks became the first outpost of the chain to unionize, in December 2021. Since then, some 200 Starbucks stores have followed suit.

[…]

As Starbucks stores across the country continue to announce union drives, the company has taken steps in an effort to counter this trend. Last week, for example, Starbucks announced several new benefits—a savings account program and student loan repayment tools—for employees who are not union members.

Employees, however, worry that those who publicly organizing efforts may face adverse consequences, including termination or the closure of stores. In July, shortly after the union drive went public, DeLeon said that the decision to organize had not been an easy because it could put jobs at risk, including his own.

Congratulations to Josh DeLeon and the workers for this accomplishment. That said, it’s one thing to vote for a union and another thing to get the mother company to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. For the most part, companies like Starbucks have done everything they can to avoid coming to any deals with the many new unions that have cropped up. I have no idea what will happen with that, but I wish those workers all the best in taking the next step.

MLB to recognize MLBPA representation of minor leaguers

Wow.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association on Saturday finalized a card-check agreement expected to formalize the league recognizing the union as the bargaining representative for a unit of minor league players in excess of 5,000 members, sources told ESPN.

The agreement, in which the MLBPA will present union-authorization cards Wednesday to be counted by a neutral arbiter, is the latest step in the rapid unionization of minor league players and sets up the parties to negotiate a collective-bargaining agreement.

The parties plan to begin negotiations in the offseason in hopes of striking an agreement before the 2023 minor league season.

By voluntarily recognizing minor leaguers’ desire to unionize with the MLBPA, which was first announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Friday, the league is hastening what people on both sides saw as inevitable: the MLBPA representing a wide swath of minor league players, including all who play in the four domestic levels as well as those at team complexes in Arizona and Florida.

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Absent the recognition, the MLBPA would have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board and earned status as the bargaining representative with a vote of more than 50% of players who returned ballots. With the MLBPA saying that more than 50% of the potential unit has returned cards indicating they want to join the union, the league chose to recognize the unionization of minor leaguers under the MLBPA umbrella.

See here for the background. I had assumed MLB would fight this, as they are not at all known for being labor-friendly, but it would seem that the numbers are such that it didn’t make sense to draw it all out. The next step would be a collective bargaining agreement with the minor leaguers, and that will among other things provide for the league more opportunities to gain some leverage over the major league players. This is a historic agreement and a great start for the union, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

MLBPA seeks to represent minor leaguers

Good to see, though there are some questions that will need to be answered.

The Major League Baseball Players Association took an initial step toward unionizing the minor leagues Sunday night, sending out authorization cards that will allow minor league players to vote for an election that could make them MLBPA members.

“Minor leaguers represent our game’s future and deserve wages and working conditions that befit elite athletes who entertain millions of baseball fans nationwide,” players’ association executive director Tony Clark said Monday in a statement. “They’re an important part of our fraternity and we want to help them achieve their goals both on and off the field.”

The potential unionization of more than 5,000 minor leaguers is the latest action in a yearslong effort by players who won a $185 million settlement from the league in an unpaid wages class-action lawsuit and have received housing from teams and increased pay in recent years. Minor league players, whose compensation and benefits are not collectively bargained, continue to argue for higher salaries, which for a vast majority range from around $5,000 to $14,000 annually. Furthermore, the Senate Judiciary Committee has suggested it will call a hearing to explore MLB’s antitrust exemption and its treatment of minor leaguers.

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Advocates for Minor Leaguers, the group that has spent recent years organizing minor league players, is now working with the MLBPA, which collectively bargains with MLB on behalf of the 1,200 players on major league rosters.

“The last couple years has been a buildup of players offering their voices and their concerns, with Advocates for Minor Leaguers continuing to echo and aggregate those voices in a way that have gotten us to this point,” Clark told ESPN.

In order for the MLBPA to represent minor leaguers in collective bargaining, 30% of players need to sign union authorization cards, which would prompt an election. If a majority of those who vote in an election choose for union representation, the National Labor Relations Board will require MLB to recognize the union. The league and MLBPA then would collectively bargain for minor leaguers, an outcome that even five years ago would have registered as farfetched.

You can see a statement from the MLBPA here. I’m all in favor of this, and Lord knows the minor league players need representation, between MLB’s relentless efforts to cut their pay and more recently reduce the number of minor league teams. It’s just that the MLBPA hasn’t necessarily been a friend to minor leaguers in previous CBAs. Which is understandable, since those players weren’t and still aren’t a part of that union and the MLBPA was aiming to get the best deal it could get for its members. If the owners put some MiLB concessions on the table as a chip, well, the MLBPA had to consider what it meant for them. Very few current minor leaguers were affected by past CBAs, at least at the time, so I don’t think that will be an obstacle. The contraction of the minor leagues, with MLB in control of them, is a strong incentive for the players and the union to join forces. If this goes through, it won’t stop MLB from trying similar tactics in the future, it will just be a test of the larger union’s resolve. I’m rooting for them to get this done. CBS Sports has more.