State Street Starbucks Employees Secure Union Status

In a significant decision, the union organizers at State Street Starbucks voted overwhelmingly in favor of having Workers United represent them in the collective bargaining process. The margin of victory was 20 to 2, reflecting strong support for unionization among the workers.

The collective bargaining process consists of five steps, involving debates and voting on contract proposals after a store votes to unionize, according to One Starbucks, a reliable source on Starbucks-related matters.

To secure the vote, the store needed a majority of eligible partners who participated. The election took place at the U.S. Federal Court by the Capitol, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday. All partners who had worked at Starbucks before May 5 were eligible to vote, and the vote was officially certified by the National Labor Relations Board.

With the public announcement of their decision to seek unionization on April 18, the State Street store is now federally recognized and will follow the same set of proposals as other unionized Starbucks locations. Notably, over 75% of the workers at the State Street store had already signed Authorization for Representation cards, which grant the union the authority to negotiate terms and conditions on behalf of the employees. According to Matthew Cartwright, a union organizer and shift supervisor, support for the union has only grown since the initial announcement.

Since the unionization announcement, the district manager started visiting the store more frequently. This included conducting one-on-one meetings with partners on-site and inviting the store manager to off-premises meetings.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, employees have the right to unionize and the right to refrain from doing so. The law strictly prohibits employers from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in exercising these rights.

In response to allegations of union busting made by union organizers at the State Street store, a Starbucks spokesperson stated that such claims are unfounded. The spokesperson clarified that members of Starbucks’ Partner Relations team regularly visit stores ahead of union representation elections to ensure compliance with labor laws and provide partners with factual information, including voting logistics.

During the district manager’s visits, workers at the State Street location staged a legally protected “march on the boss,” where they held a surprise meeting with management, presenting a statement about their working conditions and a letter demanding recognition of the union.

The decision by the State Street store aligns with the growing trend of Starbucks workers nationwide seeking unionization. In March 2022, workers at the Capitol Square Starbucks location in Madison also announced their intention to seek unionization. Additionally, Starbucks stores in various Wisconsin cities, such as Plover, Oak Creek, and Green Bay, have pursued union representation.

Following the State Street store’s unionization decision, Starbucks responded by stating that they would not voluntarily recognize the union, which is a common response among many private companies, as reported by NPR.

The Starbucks spokesperson affirmed that they welcome the opportunity for partners at the State Street store to vote in a neutral and secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. They emphasized the importance of ensuring that partners can trust the fairness of the process and have their voices heard.

The workers at the State Street location filed for union representation under Workers United, which represents various industries, including apparel, textile, commercial laundry, distribution, food service, hospitality, fitness, and non-profit sectors.

If Workers United is elected as the exclusive bargaining representative, the union will then need to identify a bargaining representative for the store and submit an initial bargaining demand to Starbucks. This demand will include proposing a date and location for the first in-person contract bargaining session.

The movement to unionize Starbucks locations began nationally in December 2022 when baristas in Buffalo, New York voted in favor of unionization. Since then, over 350 Starbucks stores have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for union elections. Most recently, workers at a New Orleans store won their unionization election in a vote of 11 to 5 on May 22.

However, NPR reports that the process of collective bargaining after winning a union election can take several years, and so far, no Starbucks store that has undergone a union election has a contract in place.

State Street Starbucks has been closely collaborating with the Capital Square location, which announced its intention to seek unionization in March 2022, according to The Badger Herald.

In Wisconsin, policies like Act 10, enacted during former Republican Governor Scott Walker’s tenure, have weakened the strength of public and private unions. Between 2011 and 2020, unionization in the state decreased by 35%.

The Associated Press highlights that unionization efforts have slowed, partly due to Starbucks’ response, which has included store closures and the termination of pro-union workers. Cartwright, in interviews with The Badger Herald, referred to “illegal actions” concerning unionization efforts.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz denied any unlawful actions taken against the Buffalo store where Starbucks violated a federal labor law in an attempt to prevent unionization, according to the Buffalo News.

The Starbucks spokesperson emphasized that the company has policies in place to maintain a safe and welcoming environment, strictly prohibiting any retaliatory behavior towards partners interested in a union. They also mentioned that Starbucks has implemented a comprehensive management training program and established a dedicated labor relations team to ensure adherence to company policies and compliance with employment and labor laws.

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