news·4 min read

Daily Skimm: Starbucks's Union, Jussie Smollett, and the Batman River Loach

Starbucks employees wait for results of a vote count
Getty Images
Dec 10, 2021

Venti Changes 

The Story

Starbucks employees are brewing up some change

I’m latte to this story. Catch me up.

Throughout the pandemic, workers in the US have been re-assessing their jobs (think: hours, wages, benefits, and treatment). It’s led to a boost in the number of workers trying to join labor unions so that they can improve job conditions through collective bargaining. That includes Starbucks staff. In August, employees at three Buffalo-area stores said ‘it’s time to go Grande.’ And filed a petition with regulators to unionize – citing things like years of understaffing, poor training, and faulty equipment. After a month of mail-in voting, the results are in.

*Sips cappuccino.* Go on.

Out of the three stores, one location voted to unionize (hi, Elmwood Ave Starbucks). Meaning, it could soon be the first out of nearly 9,000 Starbucks stores nationwide to join a labor union. And it may be the shot of espresso other locations need to jump onboard. Currently, there are three more Starbucks locations in Buffalo, NY, and one in Mesa, AZ, that have petitions to join a labor union. Elmwood Ave workers applauded the win, saying it’ll bring them to the negotiating table for things like wage increases and benefits. But while the vote passed, that doesn’t mean it’s over.

Re-fill me in, please. 

The union vote still has to be certified – something that could take a week. And Starbucks isn’t exactly thrilled. The CEO has said ‘but you’ve got amazing benefits.’ (Think: paid family leave, free college tuition). And apparently argued it prefers to work directly with its workers. But Buffalo workers say they want to be able to weigh in on decisions. And accused the company of trying to undermine their efforts. Starbucks said that no matter the outcome it would “continue to stay true” to its mission and values. And the company does have a history of following orders (see: Victoria, Canada).


When the pandemic shut everything down, service workers were there to prep and deliver our goods. It came at the risk of COVID-19 exposure and impatient customers. Now – amid rising inflationlabor shortages, and a tangled supply chain – more employees are fighting to have a greater say about what happens in the workplace.

PSHere's your explainer on labor unions and COVID-19's impact on them.

And Also...This

Who people are talking about…

Jussie Smollett. Yesterday, a jury convicted the former “Empire” actor on five of six disorderly conduct charges. In 2019, Smollett claimed he was the victim of a hate crime in Chicago – saying two people yelled racist and homophobic statements, beat him, and put a noose around his neck. But authorities later determined the actor staged the attack. Fast forward to last week and Smollett’s trial got underway. Two brothers testified that the actor paid them to carry out the fake attack. But Smollett maintained “there was no hoax.” After more than nine hours of deliberations, the jury found him guilty on the majority of the charges. But acquitted him on the sixth count of lying to a detective.

  • Not over: A disorderly conduct charge carries a sentence of up to three years in prison. TBD on a sentencing hearing. Smollett’s lawyer plans to appeal. 

Who’s seen the light…

Canada. Earlier this week, it approved legislation that would end conversion therapy – the discredited practice of trying to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Canada's been trying to make it illegal since last year. But has failed twice. Now, the law – which had unanimous support and goes into effect next month – ends things like behavioral therapy and medical treatments. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau applauded the decision, saying Canada will “always stand up” for LGBTQ+ rights. 

  • Zooming out: Other countries – including Malta, Germany, and Albania – have outlawed the practice. And France could be next. Meanwhile, a majority of US states still allow it.  

PS: Let's talk about what the history of LGBTQ+ stigma has to do with mental health today.

Who's thinking of teens' health...

New Zealand. Yesterday, the island country said it wants to outlaw smoking for future generations. By gradually raising the age limit to buy cigarettes. About 13% of New Zealand adults are smokers. But with the proposed law, they hope to bring that down to 5% by 2025. The gov will reportedly provide support to help smokers quit.

The FDA. Yesterday, it said Pfizer's third dose is now available for everyone 16+. And granted it emergency use authorization. Now, teens who’ve gotten both doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine can get their booster after six months. It comes a day after Pfizer said early lab data suggests a third dose could be effective against the highly-mutated Omicron variant.

...Oh and speaking of the FDA, it also authorized the first injectable antibody cocktail to treat COVID-19.

Who could be getting their ‘I Voted’ sticker…

About 800,000 New Yorkers. Yesterday, NYC’s city council passed a bill that would allow non-US citizens to vote in local elections. Under the new rule, those who have lived in NYC for at least 30 days and are green card holders or have a work permit can vote in NYC elections starting in 2023. Supporters applauded the decision, saying immigrants have a right to be represented. But Republicans are pointing to the state constitution, adding that only "citizens" can vote and vowing to take legal action. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) says he won't veto the move.

When all your friends are talking about inflation

Just wait until the Consumer Price Index comes out today. Then, read the seven ways to protect your wallet.

Who’s saying ‘OK, Batman we’ll take it from here’...

This fish.

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