How can I best support striking workers as a consumer?
As a customer, listen to the needs of the workers. And I don’t mean what the company posts on its Facebook page! First, look for posts, statements, or other communications from employees directly.
You can also look for social accounts for unions representing workers at different companies or industries. The union protecting Starbucks workers, for example, has dedicated social accounts mainly used to recruit other employees but is a helpful overview of demands. Another good one is Restaurant Workers United, which highlights efforts to unionize across the industry. It’s national, so imagine my surprise when, shortly after I started following their account, I saw an entire unionization battle unfolding at a restaurant two blocks from my house that I didn’t know about prior.
If you’re unsure where to start, consider: do I know the names of the employees where I go? How do their working conditions seem? How often do I see new vs. familiar faces? How has this business responded to tragedies or disasters where I live? What causes does the organization promote on their store walls or social media? Spend more time thinking about the values that matter most to you when engaging with different businesses, and get thoughtful on how you can create more touchpoints that can inform your decision making.
And lastly, don’t just listen, but DO. If there’s a call to action not to order from the restaurant that day, don’t! If they request shoppers not to cross a physical picket line, don’t! You might do so unintentionally, of course; we can’t know everything all the time. If you find yourself moving against the requests of those on strike, try to make it up by engaging in another call to action. You can call or email the establishment and let them know you stand with unionizing workers and urge the business to agree to their demands. Or, you can make a public statement on social media. And you can tell others about what’s happening that might frequent that business, too. It all counts, and it all matters—especially as employees across sectors and industries advocate for better working conditions for all.