Young women are leading the fight for a union at Starbucks

November 23, 2021, 1:02 PM UTC
Starbucks barista behind at register
Many Starbucks' unionizers members of Gen Z, born 1997 or later.
Jeffrey Greenberg—Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Director Jane Campion could set an Oscars record, the Taliban bars women from appearing on TV dramas, and young women are leading a unionization campaign at Starbucks. Have a thoughtful Tuesday.

– Solidarity brewing. Angel Krempa comes from a union family. So when a unionization effort started to gain ground at the Starbucks store where she worked as a shift supervisor in upstate New York, she wanted to get involved.

Krempa, 23, is one of three Starbucks union activists who spoke to Fortune‘s Jane Thier about why they believe the $29 billion-in-revenue coffee chain needs a union. More than 100 workers at six New York stores will soon vote on whether they would like to unionize. If the vote achieves a majority, Starbucks will be compelled to bargain with organized labor for the first time.

The three activists who spoke to Jane have more in common besides their place of employment: all are Gen Z women.

LaRue Heutmaker, 19, and Maya Panos, 17, are both baristas at a Buffalo Starbucks, and say they’re supporting unionization for several reasons, from the disconnect between Starbucks’ corporate and retail workers to better health benefits.

Public approval of labor organizing has reached its highest level in decades, per Gallup, and three-quarters of new union members across the country are under 35. Hourly jobs like restaurant work—or serving coffee—are often dominated by women. So, a female-dominated industry, a labor market where workers are simultaneously in high demand and fighting for better conditions, and rising popularity of union organizing—that’s a recipe for young women to take charge.

Krempa says her family is inspired to see her continuing the union tradition. “My grandfather has been very vocal with me about unionizing, and keeps me in a positive mindset, because he went through strikes with his company years ago,” she says. “He says ‘it’s crazy to see you doing this, and you’re so young!’”

Read Jane’s full story here.

Emma Hinchliffe

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


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