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Unionizing Is Off the Menu at Local Starbucks

Written by on Sunday, July 16, 2023

On Tuesday, workers at a Bradenton Starbucks held a vote to unionize that failed to reach majority. One anonymous source claims that this is because employees are scared to lose their jobs.

By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: July 14, 2023

 

Official Transcript

Johannes Werner: Many Starbucks baristas across the nation want to join a union. So do a handful workers at a Starbucks store on University Parkway and Honore here in suburban Sarasota. On Tuesday, they held a vote that failed to reach majority. Ramon Lopez has that story.

Host: It was coffee, tea or union representation on the menu at the Starbucks at University Parkway and Honore Avenue on Tuesday. The coffee shop was closed so 24 eligible workers could vote to unionize or not. The election was monitored by a rep from the NLRB’s Region 12 office in Tampa. The ballot said either yes or no to unionization and were unsigned.

But only 16 full-time and regular part-time baristas and shift supervisors elected to cast ballots that day. It was a close vote with seven workers voting for labor union representation and nine casting nay votes. Starbucks has been suffering from bad PR of late, so the election yielded a small victory for the major U.S. company headquartered in Seattle, Washington.

A month ago, 18 of the baristas at the busy Starbucks coffee shop in Bradenton announced their intention to unionize, joining thousands of other Starbucks workers nationwide who want changes at the $113 billion coffee corporation. With the backing of Workers United Southern Regional joint board and Starbucks Workers United, the Buffalo, New York-based union, the local baristas protested a number of grievances, including the abrupt termination of a veteran store manager on May 15. They said she was fired without explanation. The barista said she was wrongfully dismissed for having a sympathetic ear to their justifiable workplace grievances and desire to unionize.

They also allege that work hours have been slashed across the board to reduce labor costs. They say it is harder now than ever for baristas to qualify for health care benefits. The baristas say a $1 raise has done little to push back against the already rising cost of living in and working in the Sarasota-Bradenton area.

They filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board or the NLRB. A majority of the workers had to agree to unionize. The yes vote would have led to drafting of a proposed contract to be presented to Starbucks management. The Bradenton Starbucks would have joined five other Starbucks in Florida voting to unionize: two in Tallahassee, one in Jacksonville, one in Miami Springs, and one in Oviedo.

One in 300 Starbucks around the country have won union elections, covering more than 8,000 workers, but little progress had been made in hammering out a first union contract with Starbucks. Starbucks has been fighting back on the unionization front. A Starbucks spokesperson said, “the company respects their workers right to organize and engage in lawful union activities.” The company spokesperson hoped that all parties “respect our right to share factual information and the company’s perspective with the baristas.”

Starbucks spokesperson Andrew Troll told WSLR News after the voting that, “We are pleased to have the opportunity to continue working side by side with our partners at the University Parkway store. We continue to believe our direct relationship as partners is core to the culture and experiences we create in our facilities.” He continued, “Our core focus throughout this process was to ensure that every partner engaged in a union representation election can trust the process is fair, their voice and vote are considered, and that the final outcome is true and accurate.”

He said everything is back to normal at the Bradenton Starbucks now that the union matter is resolved. “The decision was made to maintain our current employer-employee relationship, so nothing has changed there.”

Starbucks management ordered the Bredenton baristas could not talk to the media about the vote. But an unnamed person with direct knowledge of the election did speak to WSLR News. That person was shocked and surprised by the nay vote and a little upset.

The union organizers thought they had the votes to unionize, but store managers met with the baristas. The unnamed source said the union backers had really thought they did a good job with damage control, but the informed source said the baristas were intimidated and scared about change, scared about losing their jobs and wanted to avoid retaliation.

The informed source was reflective on the vote not to unionize at the Bradenton coffee shop. That person said, “It’s a democracy, we vote, so I’m glad the collective got the outcome they wanted. That’s the point of voting majority rule. I respect that.”

This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.

 

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