The news has recently highlighted the fact that workers at some Apple stores and Starbucks locations are moving to unionize, an action that may come as a surprise to those of us who envy the benefits these retail giants are able to offer their associates. And while it’s unlikely that the employees at smaller independent retailers will take this action, it’s worth looking at what issues this movement brings to the forefront.

The workers at Apple’s Grand Central Terminal location are asking for a $30 minimum wage, according to CBS News. They maintain that their workplace is highly stressful, with persistence exposure to COVID. The article quotes tech reporter Dan Patterson as saying, “You have to think that this vote could potentially empower not just other Apple stores to unionize, but across the spectrum when it comes to tech and other retail outlets.”

The pandemic has also heightened the stress of working at Starbucks. Casey Moore, a Starbucks barista, said in an online post by Forbes: “I think the pandemic highlighted how hard service industry jobs are, and highlighted the importance of us getting better living standards.”

Both of these workplaces are facing unionization because not all employees feel safe, appreciated and empowered.  The action is also a reflection of the fact that inflation has also made it more difficult than ever to get by on retail wages, especially given the cost of housing and transportation.

Unionizing may or may not be the best solution to these problems in big businesses such as Apple and Starbucks. But for some independents, this may be a needed wakeup call to help us acknowledge that they exist.  We need to look for ways to increase wages whenever possible, protect the health and safety of our staff, and to improve how employees feel about the important work they do.

Happy retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder