Letter from labor

the following is an LTE from El, Chair of the WDP Labor Caucus. Written summer 2023.

It’s not every day that I find myself surrounded by heroes. I recently had that experience while sitting at Starbucks on Central in Cheyenne. A FB post invited me to a sip-in for their Union’s Strong cause. I felt weird buying a beverage from the corporation, but I was in if it somehow supported the workers.   

I went up to the counter and said, “Union Strong.” I asked the barista taking my order if they were part of the crew helping to get the Union started, and he said, “No, I’m a corporate loyalist.” I was slightly startled, not too much, because I live in Wyoming, but still not what I expected. While preparing to pay my bill, the card reader asked if I wanted to provide a tip. I continued to pursue a conversation with the corporate loyalist and asked, “Why is this asking me for a tip? Does your boss not pay you enough that they need me to contribute your income?” The barista told me they would not discuss their salary and then provided a charming and well-rehearsed reply that the tip was a courtesy to thank the barista for their service. However, after talking to the unionists, I learned the tips are distributed between all the baristas, and my tip does not go directly to the one that made my excellent Chai. This encounter with the corporate loyalist set me up for an inspirational and motivational meeting with the unionists.

While sitting outside with my compatriots, a young lady came out of the store and sat beside me. In a few minutes, two other ladies joined her. As we introduced ourselves, I quickly understood I was seated amongst Heroes. These women shared with me and others listening about the treatment they received before deciding to unionize. They talked about management bullying, grooming, and offering alcohol to minors at a Corporate function. They talked about reporting these grievances to Corporate without satisfactory resolution. They spoke of retaliation since deciding to unionize, including loss of hours/income, superfluous disciplinary actions, and threats. These women, these leaders, spoke about why they stayed with the company, and all three agreed at one time or another; they worked with a manager that provided guidance, support, camaraderie, and fulfillment in work, and that is not what they are experiencing now. They believe that through the Union, they will provide a healthy working environment for workers at the Starbucks on Central and, thus, an enjoyable and friendly coffee experience for the people who work, live, and visit downtown Cheyenne.  

These workers at the downtown Cheyenne Starbucks deserve safety. Especially the days leading up to Monday, July 31, 2023, when they vote and possibly sometime after. I live in Wyoming; I know what people can do, and we’d hate to hear that any misfortune has fallen on these brave women and their co-workers through the corporation or the community. 

I’m not sure these ladies know who Norma Rae, Karen Silkwood, or Erin Brockovich are, but I do, and I saw, heard, and felt something from these women that is true and powerful, and if you’d like to feel it to support the Starbucks Union on Central and that makes you a Cheyenne hero, too.

-El, Wyoming Labor Caucus