September 22, 2022
BU Today recently published an article featuring Michel Anteby, Professor of Management & Organizations, discussing the difference between the Starbucks action and the threat of strike by freight train workers.
After 64 days of an organized strike, Starbucks workers at BU’s Central Campus location ended the walkout by claiming victory as the store reopened. The national freight train union also threatened a walkout, reaching an agreement over 20 hours of negotiation with employers facilitated by the President and U.S. Secretary of Labor. Anteby compares the context of the two strikes, noting that a service business like Starbucks is likely to experience higher staff turnover rates compared to long-term careers like freight train management.
However, the freight train issue is also unique in that its economy is very different. It is an interconnected railway system where one company’s pullout has the power to affect the entire system. Michel discusses ways strikes can be successful by looking at the essentialness of workers in an industry. He states, “Nurses and teachers, these are two professions where the amount of training and certification to get up to speed has a much longer runway than others. We need more awareness of how easily replaceable workers are when employers are making these decisions… The more captive a company is to employees, the more likely a strike will end up succeeding.”