Nonfungible tokens (NFTs) have seen their fair share of controversy, but now they have found their way into the midst of the battle between multi-billion dollar corporations and workers trying to unionize their workplaces in the United States.
On his first day back as the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz promised additional worker benefits to workers and digital innovation using NFTs. In a partner open forum, Schultz mentioned that "sometime before the end of the calendar year, we are going to be in the NFT business."
The announcement received its fair share of backlash. In a tweet, user smchatter1 wrote that “corporations could just pay employees living wages instead of burning profits to maintain illusions.” Michael Lama also criticized the move:
"and here is how we're going to try to dupe, scam, and milk even more money out of our employees"— Michael Lama (@LamaLamaRedPjma) April 5, 2022
While integrating NFTs may seem like a progressive move, some believe that it’s a way to distract people from the company’s actions against the formation of unions. An hour after the announcement, Starbucks fired Laila Dalton, a union leader who had worked for the company for more than three years.
In an interview, Dalton said that managers were constantly harassing her for being the leader of a union. “I’m always expecting it because I’m harassed every single day,” Dalton said.
Efforts to unionize stores are gaining ground in the United States. On April 1, the Starbucks Roastery at New York's Chelsea market became the tenth unionized Starbucks in the United States.
Furthermore, Amazon workers in Staten Island recently won the vote to become the first U.S. Amazon union, a move that has been seen by many labor politics observers to be a significant victory for labor in the United States.
Schultz has been very vocal against unions. In the partner meeting, he described Starbucks as “A pro-partner company. A company that does not need someone in between us and our people.” He also claimed that companies throughout the country are “being assaulted in many ways by the threat of unionization.”
Despite this supposed threat of unionization, Starbucks made record profits in Q4 of 2021 while employees shared concerns over unhealthy and unpredictable schedules in addition to benefits problems and low pay.
Back in March, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a complaint against the coffee company and accused it of targeting workers who wanted to form unions. According to the NLRB, employees have the right to seek improvements and form unions. Cornele Overstreet, an NLRB director, said that “employees have the right to work together to improve their working conditions, including by forming a union.”
Back in March 2022, Ethereum (ETH) founder Vitalik Buterin also expressed worries about the original egalitarian digital economy vision of the Ethereum blockchain being overtaken by entities motivated by greed. However, the community responded by saying that there should be a balance between idealism and profit.