Employees at two more Seattle Starbucks locations hope to unionize, expanding the nationwide union push in the coffee giant’s hometown.
Starbucks workers at a drive-thru location on Westlake Avenue and the store at Fifth Avenue and Pike Street said Tuesday they have filed for union elections. They join a store in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, where workers announced plans to unionize last month.
“We will not have any change in our stores that we do not have input in,” said Brent Hayes, who works at the Westlake drive-thru. “We will have a seat at the table.”
The campaigns come in the wake of workers at two stores in Buffalo, New York, voting in December to join Workers United, an affiliate of Service Employees International Union. A third Buffalo store voted against unionizing. The Seattle stores are three of more than two dozen across the country where employees have filed for union representation.
Starbucks has opposed unionization.
“We continue to believe a union is not necessary at Starbucks,” Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges said Tuesday. “We believe direct communication between partners has made our company what it is today … We’re also going to respect our partners’ right to organize.”
Starbucks workers say they face understaffing in high-pressure stores and they want more input on store policies.
Hayes said workers at drive-thru locations face especially high pressure to operate with short staffing at a time workers are frequently out for COVID-19 related reasons. Other Starbucks employees have called for more of a say in staffing, shift scheduling and safety protocols.
The company defended its pandemic protocols. Starbucks provides “catastrophe pay” for “two rounds of isolation per quarter” for employees with coronavirus exposure.
The union effort could upend dynamics at a company that hasn’t had broad union representation in decades, but for now the push remains narrow in scope.
Employees have filed for union elections at about 30 stores across the country, according to National Labor Relations Board records. Starbucks has roughly 9,000 company-owned stores in the United States.
Though Seattle Starbucks workers were unionized in the company’s early days several decades ago, the locations in Buffalo became the only unionized company-owned stores in the country. Some workers are unionized at licensed Starbucks locations in airports and grocery stores.
Workers at the Broadway and Denny location on Capitol Hill say the company has begun holding anti-union meetings. The workers have filed an unfair labor practice charge accusing the company of punishing a worker at that store for union activities.
The meetings are “an opportunity for partners to be informed” and “we deny any claims of intimidation or union busting,” Borges said. An election date for that store has not been set.
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant said Tuesday she would introduce a resolution backing the workers and donate $10,000 to their effort.