In Buffalo, New York, Starbucks workers set up a storefront office to coordinate union drives. The young baristas leading the effort have made a straightforward case: Starbucks cannot earn billions for its shareholders without the labor of the people who take orders, learn the names of regulars, and serve them their drinks just the way they like them. At the same time, workers cannot afford rent, utilities, and the basic costs of living on the wages they earn at many Starbucks stores.

By forming a union, workers can leverage their power to negotiate better wages and working conditions. Starbucks, meanwhile, has done everything in its power to defend its stores against the rising tide of unionization. One worker claimed in a viral TikTok video that, in response to their union drive outside of this storefront, the company sent in "over 100 out-of-state managers" to "threaten and intimidate" employees. Nevertheless, Starbucks lost: Workers at two stores in Buffalo voted to form a union. Since then, Starbucks workers in other states, from Arizona to Virginia, have followed suit.

When we visited the workers in Buffalo this past February, we told them what we've told workers across the nation: If society calls you "essential" and asks you to work on the front lines during a pandemic, it is immoral to then treat you as though you are expendable.

Starbucks workers are organizing for the same reason Amazon workers are fighting to form a union, care workers are lobbying for a $15 minimum wage, and truck drivers are striking for better pay. And resignation statistics tell the same story: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than four million U.S. workers walked off their jobs in November 2021 alone--an all-time high since it began documenting this data in 2000.

Our economy isn't facing a "labor shortage" but a labor uprising. And it is being led by people who are refusing to cooperate with a political economy that depends on them without treating them like human beings.

During the past forty years, the share of earnings for the nation's top 1 percent has doubled, while the wages for 90 percent of workers have barely kept up with inflation. Even before COVID-19, there were 140 million low-income people living in the United States, making up about 40 percent of the population, including more than half of the nation's children. And poor communities have borne the brunt of the United States' excessive COVID-19 death toll.

Yet poverty is...

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