Starbucks' Unionization Battle Has Inspired A Role-Playing Tabletop Game

The scourge of the pandemic, while expensive, fatal, and crippling, has expedited the process in a decades-long (per Eater Chicago) battle for unionization among fast food and food delivery workers (Starbucks included), but not everybody is game.

The plight of these workers intensified during the lockdowns. The continuance of their trades, while the rest of the world retreated, emphasized their hardships. During this period, it was probably the heaviest that America has ever leaned on this part of the workforce, and it was at this moment the tide showed signs of changing. In April 2021, more than 2,000 delivery workers cycled from Time Square to Foley Square in New York under the worker empowerment umbrella called Los Deliveristas Unidos. This consortium of fast food workers further bolstered their impact by teaming up with New York heavyweight workers union 32BJ, per The City.

The mass action occurred at a fortuitous moment. Perhaps it was a time the world fully appreciated the value of the food (delivery) worker. Given that this level of organization allows more power to employees, it would be naïve to imagine that all the stakeholders are enthusiastic about it, mainly because of the question: What does this mean for employers?

Starbucks closing down locations ahead of Unionizations

One of the brands experiencing the effects of unionization is Starbucks. Unfortunately, workers attempting to join or create these consortiums face adverse behavior from the coffee chain. Starbucks, under the auspices of taking the dangers imposed on employers by external factors like drug abuse, vagrancy, and homelessness seriously, has started closing outlets. The closures of branches are occurring as unionization starts to take effect nationally. In Los Angeles, Starbucks announced that it would close six outlets by the end of July 2022, attempting to avoid the alleged threat to employer safety.

A more worrying consequence of this action is unemployment. According to the union's chief, Tyler Keeling, the former is an attempt to deter employees or "partners," as referred to by Starbucks, from unionizing (per Eater Los Angeles).

The same transpired in Chicago. The Edgewater Starbucks in the north of Chicago closed its doors only four days before the union was to meet with them for negotiations, once again citing dangers to customers and employees. Observably, either Starbucks is becoming rather dangerous, or there is credence to Keeling's suspicions, per Eater Chicago.

Cosmic Latte points to the relevance of unionization

Starbucks is more than just a blip on the radar. It has 15,733 branches nationwide(per ScrapeHero) and 138,000 workers (per macrotrends) as of 2021, so when the coffee brand goes head to head with its workforce, it can't be allowed to fade into the fog of history too easily.

Pearse Anderson did his part to prevent this. The man produced a one-page game honoring the unionization struggle with Starbucks and creating awareness of it. The one-page board game, called "Cosmic Latte," is what Pearse calls a "barista unionization simulation," and it encompasses aspects of the Starbucks barista's work experience such as the drinks they have to make, the unions that they may join for better working conditions, bread, and lattes (per Instagram). "Cosmic Latte" is set in space (like the name hints) and positions the player as a demigod to create planets by journaling their descriptions in a limited period of 87 seconds. The game's relevance to unionization is its requirement for players to throw in with other demigods to survive.

This game is downloadable from Anderson's website at no cost or for a donation, the profits of which will go to the Starbucks Workers Solidarity Fund and "Nick for 48th Ward Alderman" — an initiative to find a pro-union candidate for Anderson's locale (per Instagram).