The multinational coffee giant tried to bury the union,
grind it down before it could coalesce,
percolating propaganda about valuing its underpaid and overworked partners,
talking up sweeteners like complimentary streaming subscriptions.
firing organizers and dragging out contract talks.
But the ever-harried baristas had watched their benefits wither,
saw their paychecks get leaner while shareholder returns got fatter,
weathered the storm of the drive-through’s unending demands,
and stuck it out through the pandemic, when it was deemed by the powers that be
that nothing could be more essential than a grande mocha with oat milk, no whipped.
The workers knew how to make a strong brew, union strong.
They rose up in Buffalo, Cleveland, Memphis, Kansas City.
They rose up all across the land in solidarity, in defiance.
There’s only so many times you can demean, disparage and devalue a person.
You can bury people at the bottom of a hierarchy, of a pay scale,
tell them their work is worth less.
convey that they’re disposable and worthless.
But you can’t bury the human spirit forever.
Joseph S. Pete is an award-winning journalist, author, and frequent guest on Lakeshore Public Radio whose work has appeared in more than 100 literary journals. He’s written newspaper articles, magazine features, poems, short stories, flash fiction, essays, humor pieces, grocery lists, and even author bios.