A New Labor Movement: How Workers Are Unionizing Amazon, Starbucks And REI


After decades of decline in the United States, unions may be poised for a comeback.

Every month seems to bring more promising news for organized labor. Workers at companies like John Deere and Kellogg’s have gone on strike to win pay raises and fight concessions. Workers at Starbucks have organized roughly 100 stores from coast to coast since last fall. REI employees formed the outdoor retailer’s very first union. And Amazon employees defied all the odds and won an 8,000-worker union election in New York City.

Just 1 in 10 U.S. workers now belongs to a union, down from roughly 1 in 3 in the period following World War II. Yet the labor movement is showing more muscle now than it has in years. Emboldened by a tight labor market and two years of toiling through a pandemic, workers are succeeding in organizing companies that have staunchly resisted unionization, and many of them are doing it practically on their own.

HuffPost will be gathering some of them together to explain how and why they did it.

On June 14, workers from the Amazon, REI and Starbucks unions will take part in a HuffPost panel discussion called “A New Labor Movement,” moderated by our labor reporter, Dave Jamieson. The workers will talk about the roots of their organizing campaigns, the connections they forged with their coworkers and the tactics they used to defeat the anti-union campaigns waged by their employers.

All these companies have strongly opposed their employees’ effort to organize, each in their own way. Starbucks has flooded stores with managers and been accused of retaliating against union activists. Amazon has spent millions of dollars on high-priced anti-union consultants. And REI has brandished its progressive image in hopes of diluting union support. Organizers will share their stories of fighting powerful companies from the inside, often at great personal risk, and their views of where the U.S. labor movement is headed.

The event will be at 4:00 p.m. on June 14 at the BuzzFeed offices in New York City. Speakers will include Chris Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union; Steve Buckley, REI worker and member of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union; and Reese Mercado, Starbucks worker and member of Starbucks Workers United.

HuffPost will be livestreaming the event here and on our Facebook page. Audience members in the room will be allowed to ask questions, but we’d also like to hear from those of you who can’t make it in person. If you have a question you’d like to submit or want to get a reminder about the livestream, you can email [email protected]

And if you’d like to attend the event, please RSVP here. Space is limited and RSVPs will be approved on a first-come, first-served basis.

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