Bernie Sanders speaks at “Unity Fest” rally in Richmond, Virginia: A trap for Starbucks workers

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking at Kellogg strike in Battle Creek, MI. [Credit: Battle Creek Shopper News, Facebook]

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders spoke at Unity Fest, an event on Sunday, April 24, which was organized to celebrate the successful unionization vote at five Starbucks locations in Richmond, Virginia, by Starbucks United. The rally occurred in the midst of a nationwide drive by Starbucks United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), to organize coffee outlets across the United States, which began in Buffalo, New York, last December. Over the past months, workers at 27 locations have voted to join Starbucks United, with 200 more scheduled to vote in the following months.

Joining Sanders at the Unity Fest event was Marianne Williamson, former 2020 presidential primary candidate for the Democratic Party, mystic and author of A Politics of Love. Lynn Fox, the president of Workers United, the parent organization of Starbucks United was also present. Both Williamson and Fox spoke one on one with Starbucks organizers backstage.

The rally was advertised partly as a festival, with performances from 10 local bands and hundreds in attendance. In a social media post by the Richmond Democratic Socialists of America, attendees were invited to: “Come dance, chat, and celebrate with us at Unity Fest this Sunday 11am-8pm!” In alignment with the character of the top Democratic Party operatives and pseudo-left groups present, the level of carelessness in regards to COVID-19 was on full display at the rally, with many not wearing masks even as a new surge from the B.A.2 variant is ongoing.

The rank and file’s desire to fight back is serious and genuine. In seeking to unionize, Starbucks workers nationally are looking for a way to combat the intolerable conditions they face on the job, including understaffing, unpredictable scheduling and overwork. Also, with rising inflation nationally, workers are watching with unease as prices surge while their paychecks stay the same. But the organizers of the rally did not represent the rank and file of Starbucks employees.

Over the course of the union drive, Sanders and the Democratic Party as a whole have vocally supported Starbucks United. This was exemplified by the appearance of Williamson and tweets of support from Chuck Schumer, a devotee of the banks and economic nationalism.

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