Standing Up For Workers

Standing Up For Workers June 29, 2023

“I’m an old straight white guy standing up,” I shouted, “And you can too!” The baristas laughed. One said, “That’s true.” In case, you have not heard the Starbucks Union is on strike this week because the company stopped decorating for LGBTQ+ Pride. Not only that, the company forbade all voluntary Pride decorating in the unionized stores. No more flags or rainbow pins on the aprons. Nothing. No acknowledgment. Starbucks has jerked around their barista “partners” since the organizing efforts began. There still is no contract. And despite what the company says to the media they are not good-faith participants in the dispute.  Today I was on the picket line for a short time during what would normally be the peak time for traffic. While there I thought of 3 ways we could show we are standing on holy ground with the workers.

Standing at the Picket Line

You may be neither employee nor union member, but you can stand on the picket line. If that cannot be done, bringing water and refreshments to those who are picketing would be welcome. Think about it this way; the workers are asking for relief from their employer. We can show support by standing beside the employees or helping with relief for the time they are giving in “the heat of the day.”

Never Cross the Picket Line

Picket line etiquette is lost on most people. I get it. For most people picketing means protest. When most workplaces are struck, the customers do not have much choice. If the Teamsters union walks out on August 1st against UPS, deliveries will be affected. Retail places rely on customer traffic. The striking workers ask the individual customer to make a sacrifice for their sake. Having the cold mocha latté is a high point of the day. It helps keep you sane at work. But helping other people in their work eventually benefits all workers.

It is not helpful to give strikers a thumbs up or raise a fist in solidarity if you turn into the drive-thru after you do it.  I know what it is to hear words of support but see actions that don’t from the same people.

Standing by Telling

“You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.” (Leviticus 19:13) “For the scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain’ and, ‘The laborer deserves to be paid.” (1 Timothy 5:18) Justice is material principle. It goes beyond best wishes or “thoughts and prayers.” The striking workers are looking for tangible results. It begins when we let other people know we stand with those who are calling for justice for themselves. Standing by and cheering them on is a good start. But showing your support to other people who may not understand why it matters will do more for the workers beyond one store or facility.

About C. Don Jones
Don serves as Pastor for the Andersonville and Heiskell United Methodist Churches in East Tennessee. He is the author of The Sun Still Shines: The Legend of a Drunken Pastor which can be ordered from Wipf and Stock Publishers or most other online booksellers. You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives