Four raised fists with Apple, Amazon, Etsy and Starbucks logos.
Illustration: Getty Images Plus; Protocol

Big Tech’s big uprising

Source Code

Good morning! Tech companies have been largely immune to unionization efforts in the last few decades, but recent worker-led movements within Amazon and Apple prove that may no longer be the case. What’s next? Tech leaders can look to Starbucks for clues. I’m Anna Kramer and this weekend I dyed eggs with onion skins. It was the most fun I’ve had in weeks.

Starbucks is unionizing. Big Tech should take heed.

The wave of unionization sweeping Starbucks stores across the country — more than 20 so far, with potentially hundreds more in process — might not seem all that pressing to tech execs, but company leaders should be paying extremely close attention. Those Starbucks unions are proving to be powerful inspiration for the workforces that power tech companies, from Amazon warehouse workers to Apple store retail employees, and even the makers and sellers on Etsy.

Apple retail workers are officially trying to form a union, a first for the company, in a move that takes a page from the Starbucks union playbook. A group of employees at the Grand Central Apple store in Manhattan, calling themselves the Fruit Stand Workers United, on Monday announced plans to organize a legally recognized union.

  • The FSWU has affiliated itself with the national group that is leading the Starbucks union movement. The national Workers United will represent FSWU as it tries to collect enough signatures to trigger a formal union election with the National Labor Relations Board; they need 30% of the store’s employees to sign on before crossing that legal threshold.
  • Workers United has had a startling success rate at Starbucks by unionizing one retail location at a time, a strategy it appears likely to replicate with Apple.
  • The FSWU cited both the pandemic and increasing prices due to inflation as extraordinary circumstances making work especially difficult at the Grand Central location. The union wants to negotiate a $30/hr minimum wage if it wins the right to collectively bargain with Apple.
  • For nearly a year, Apple store employees have been vocal about experiences with often difficult and sometimes even dangerous working conditions, sharing stories through a group calling itself #AppleToo.
  • Apple told Protocol that it values its retail team members and offers strong compensation and benefits, but its spokesperson would not comment specifically on the union movement.

Etsy sellers have been on strike for the last week, spurred by the Starbucks union success. Tens of thousands of Etsy sellers signed a petition committing to close their online shops from April 11-18 in protest of Etsy’s decision to raise its transaction cut from 5% to 6.5%, a 30% increase and the first since July 2018, before the pandemic began.

  • The Etsy sellers involved in organizing the strike sent a list of demands to Etsy CEO Josh Silverman, including the removal of the fee increase, when the strike began. The sellers said Monday that Silverman and Etsy never replied to their letter and have now asked participants to send the same letter via snail mail as a way of doubling down on the demands. Etsy did not respond to Protocol’s request for comment.
  • One of the leaders of the strike, seller Kristi Cassidy, told CNBC that the group of striking sellers was inspired by the union success at Starbucks and now is considering some form of unionization of its own. “We haven’t been sure what to call it,” she said. “Is it union? Is it handmade slash vintage solidarity?”
  • Etsy justified the fee increase as necessary for marketing tools and to maintain seller growth “momentum.” The company experienced an explosion in customer interest at the beginning of the pandemic and has managed to maintain most of that growth over the last two years, continuing to beat revenue expectations for all four quarters last year.

And Amazon warehouse workers won a surprising union election victory. The JFK8 Staten Island warehouse voted earlier this month to form the company’s first official union, and some of the workers who voted for the union there cited the Starbucks success as inspiration. Now a second group of Amazon workers in another Staten Island facility is gearing up for a union election vote that will begin next week, and union organizers in New Jersey just got the green light to hold an election. Amazon is planning to challenge the first union victory and has reportedly stepped up efforts to chill union support in the second facility.

Whether the union momentum continues at Amazon’s other facilities — and elsewhere for tech workers like those at Apple’s retail stores — may hinge in part on the results of this second election next week, and the upcoming union votes at Starbucks stores across the country. It’s the first time in decades that there are more than enough movements at different private sector companies to actually affect the outcomes for each other, and Big Tech should pay close attention to the outcomes of these efforts.

Anna Kramer (email| twitter)


The speed at which security has been built up over the last 12 months has been a derivative benefit of what we’ve seen during the pandemic. Privacy, compliance and security are three legs of the same stool. What we’re seeing increasingly is that intersection continuing to happen. RingCentral has invested in all those elements.

Learn more

People are talking

Rivian's RJ Scaringe said the auto industry may soon face a supply shortage that will hit electric vehicle batteries:

  • “Put very simply, all the world’s cell production combined represents well under 10% of what we will need in 10 years. Meaning, 90% to 95% of the supply chain does not exist.”

Gideon Yu, former CFO of YouTube and Facebook, said shareholders should decide whether Twitter takes Elon Musk’s offer or not:

  • “The board can and should either negotiate a deal with Elon, present a plan that is superior to his offer — or get out of the way.”

Making moves

Deezer is going public via SPAC, valuing the French music streaming service at $1.13 billion. The company will merge with blank-check company I2PO, which is listed in Paris.

Tim Cook will deliver Gallaudet University's commencement address on May 13. It'll be the university's first in-person commencement since the onset of COVID-19.

Preston Dunlap, chief architect officer for the U.S. Department of Defense, resigned. He told Bloomberg that the Pentagon needs “structural change.”

Thales Araújo de Freitas now manages Bitso's Brazil operations. He's held leadership roles at Global66, HSBC and Citibank.

In other news

Twitter outlined out its poison pill to defend against an Elon Musk takeover. The plan, which goes into effect on April 25, will flood the market with newly issued shares in order to dilute the stake that a hostile party — in this case, Musk — owns.

Apollo Global Management is considering supporting a bid for Twitter, sources told The Wall Street Journal reported. The huge buyout firm could help other bidders' offers with debt or equity.

Amazon's hourly workers will undergo a racial equity audit. Shareholders also want the company to take an independent audit of its treatment of warehouse workers.

The U.S. won't conduct harmful satellite tests anymore, and Vice President Kamala Harris wants other countries to do the same.

Amazon's been working on an unannounced AR/VR project. The company is reportedly hiring for a bunch of senior positions, including computer vision scientists, designers, program managers, product managers, researchers and technologists.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren took Intuit to task over its TurboTax tax-filing program's fees, claiming that the company’s products “scam American taxpayers into paying for services that should be free."

A federal appeals court ruled on scraping publicly available data and said it doesn’t violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The move by the Ninth Circuit in HiQ Labs v. LinkedIn is a win for researchers and journalists who have long pulled extensive data from public sources.

InfoWars filed for bankruptcy, Reuters reported. The far-right website filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas amid a trio of defamation lawsuits.

Internet slang you never needed

OGIM, AMIRITE? In case you’re not up with the internet slang, that means “Oh god, it’s Monday. Am I right?” (Yes, yes, we know it's Tuesday, WE.) The FBI compiled 83 pages of internet slang for some reason, which thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request is now available for everyone to laugh at. If you don’t want to comb through the whole document, we’ve selected a few favorites:

  • SWK means “Star Wars Kid.” Duh.
  • WE means “Whatever.” WEVA or WEVER are also accepted.
  • TYFYT means “Thank You For Your Time.” Try that as an email signature.
  • U2B means “YouTube.” Way simpler to say that way.
  • YKWIS means “You Know What I’m Saying?” You know?


At RingCentral, we’re focused on making hybrid work simpler for organizations so they can best set up, run and manage their business. We’re asking ourselves what's the benefit that we can derive, or that we can enable, that is better than the best-in-class in the industry?

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to, or our tips line, Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

Recent Issues

The best of Protocol

The confessions of SBF

Your holiday book list

A tale of two FTXs