Employees at four Starbucks locations in Michigan are joining the movement to unionize workers at the country’s biggest coffee chain.
Starbucks Workers United, the union behind the movement, announced Friday that workers at two stores in Ann Arbor and one each in Clinton Township and Grand Blanc are filing petitions with the National Labor Relations Board to hold union elections.
“We believe that a union will make us true partners of this company,” workers on the Grand Blanc store’s union organizing committee wrote Thursday in a letter to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson.
The move follows a successful campaign in Buffalo, New York, to unionize a corporate-owned location of the chain for the first time in several decades. Another Buffalo store followed soon after, prompting stores in about a dozen metro areas to move to unionize.
Starbucks Workers United — affiliated with Workers United, a labor union that represents tens of thousands of members across industries including retail, food service and apparel — said in a news release Friday that “an overwhelming majority of eligible employees” at the four Michigan locations have signed union authorization cards.
The Michigan Starbucks workers who are moving to unionize cited working conditions during the pandemic as an issue.
“Partner safety has taken a back seat at our store, exemplified by the removal of hazard pay two months into the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of a fire escape in our building, and rescinding the requirement of customers to wear masks in our building,” the Grand Blanc organizing committee wrote to Johnson. “We feel that this union is the best chance we have at improving conditions and being able to make a sustainable, meaningful career.”
In a statement Friday, Starbucks said it is “listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country. Our position hasn’t changed: Starbucks success — past, present, and future — is built on how we partner together, always with Our Mission and Values at our core.”
Amid the unionization movement and a tight labor market, the company last fall announced pay raises. The wage hikes would see all hourly workers in the U.S. making at least $15 per hour and an average of nearly $17 per hour by this summer.
The company also has noted some of the steps it’s taken in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including offering paid time off for employees to get their COVID-19 vaccines and recover from any side effects, and catastrophe pay for workers who contract COVID-19 or are exposed to the virus.
“Starbucks is a multimillion dollar corporation that boasts of working in partnership with (its) employees, all while attempting to silence workers by aggressively union busting,” Workers United International Vice President Kathy Hanshew said in a statement Friday.
“Starbucks calls (its) employees ‘partners,’ but the partnership is merely one of convenience for the company that leaves many employee concerns unheard,” she said. “It is time for Starbucks to treat their employees like true ‘partners’ and allow their workers to unionize without interference.”
Starbucks operates nearly 9,000 corporate-owned stores and has some 230,000 employees in the U.S.