Unionization efforts by employees at a pair of Maine retail shops in current months might mark the beginning of extra such exercise within the state’s retail sector, at a time when employees at a handful of chains throughout the nation have began to arrange a sector that had beforehand seen little union exercise.
Staff at a Starbucks espresso store in Biddeford this spring grew to become the primary in Maine to arrange with Employees United, with employees citing workers shortages and insufficient coaching. Employees at a Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant in Augusta quickly adopted swimsuit, changing into the primary Chipotle within the U.S. to file for a union election as Chipotle United, an unbiased union.
To this point, they’re the one two retail chain institutions in Maine to see staff arrange, however the state’s small dimension, comparatively excessive price of union illustration and custom of union illustration in established, legacy industries might bode nicely for future unionization efforts, stated Marc Cryer, the director of the Bureau of Labor Schooling on the College of Maine.
“I’m shocked that we haven’t seen extra organizing exercise,” Cryer stated. “I’m assuming that can proceed.”
Maine unions have historically held some sway within the state’s politics, with politicians typically in search of the assist of unions that characterize staff of Tub Iron Works and members of legislation enforcement. Paper mill unions across the state additionally ensured that their members have been in a position to share in employers’ advantages when the state was the worldwide middle of papermaking.
Right now, 14.7 % of Maine’s workforce is represented by a union. That’s the thirteenth highest price within the nation and greater than 4 share factors increased than the speed for the general U.S. workforce, based on federal labor knowledge.
Starbucks employees at a whole lot of shops across the U.S. have organized at a fast clip, however solely a handful have begun negotiations to discount for contracts that legally set up advantages, situations and wages. To this point, solely the Biddeford Starbucks has moved to arrange in Maine, out of the 32 shops and retailers that the espresso conglomerate operates within the state, based on Nationwide Labor Relations Board data.
An organizer with Starbucks Employees United in Maine declined to remark final week about whether or not some other retailer employees have been planning union drives in Maine.
Starbucks didn’t reply to a request for remark.
“There’s completely no purpose that the momentum ought to cease right here, aside from that we’re on the finish of the nation,” Cryer stated. “In truth, as a result of the state is smaller, I feel there’s a bonus [for] organizers as a result of it’s simply a lot simpler to achieve out to individuals than in the event you have been in Chicago or a serious metropolis the place it is likely to be tough. There’s much more reference to the group.”
The Maine AFL-CIO’s availability as a assist to its smaller associates has additionally helped, he stated.
The Maine AFL-CIO has 4 labor councils, which oversee unions in southern, western, central and jap Maine, a smaller quantity than in different states like California, the place the labor federation oversees 23 labor councils across the state and whose leaders could also be tougher for rank-and-file members to achieve, Cryer stated.
Union density — the portion of employees represented by a union — additionally issues in the case of supporting new organizing, as established unions can lend their assist, like having members present as much as stroll picket traces or boycott companies, Cryer stated.
Chipotle completely closed its Augusta retailer the identical day the Nationwide Labor Relations Board was to carry a listening to to find out whether or not the employees have been eligible for a union election. The Mexican meals chain claimed that staffing shortages pressured it to shut the “distant” retailer in Maine’s capital metropolis. Employees stated it was a union-busting tactic and that these concerned in organizing have been blacklisted from making use of for jobs at one other Chipotle restaurant in Auburn.
Chipotle United employees and supporters held a rally outdoors the Augusta retailer, and politicians together with Maine Home Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, and Rep. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, denounced Chipotle’s actions, in a present of assist from a few of the state’s top-ranking elected officers. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree requested the Nationwide Labor Relations Board to research whether or not the chain retaliated in opposition to the Augusta union.
One other union, SEIU 32BJ, which is organizing Chipotle employees in New York Metropolis, is circulating a petition on behalf of the Augusta Chipotle employees.