Four Michigan Starbucks locations move to unionize

Four Starbucks locations across Michigan are joining the movement to unionize.

The Ann Arbor, Grand Blanc and Clinton Township sites sent a letter to Starbucks announcing the organizing effort this week. The stores join the ranks of more than 30 other locations across the country where Starbucks workers are demanding a union election.

The Starbucks Workers United movement began when two locations in Buffalo, New York, became the first locations to unionize in Starbucks’ 50-year history. This galvanized the workers to organize quickly.

In less than two weeks, barista Sasha Anisimova collected union clearance cards from 21 of her co-workers in Ann Arbor, or 67% of the store’s employees.

“I think the difference it made when the Buffalo store came into action was that it gave people security and reassurance that it wouldn’t be for nothing,” she said.

Anisimova started as a barista in September. Although she wasn’t unionized when she was hired, Anisimova said she was attracted to Starbucks perks. As a former UAW member, she still wanted those labor relations. Anisimova researched the Ypsilanti chapter of the IWW and kept an eye out for news about the record number of strikes taking place across the country.

“I saw the best of both worlds and the worst of both worlds,” she said. “I’d rather have the worst union job than the best non-union job.”

The reasons for unionizing vary by store, but the overall goal is to gain more power in the workplace, said Pete McMay, organizing director for Workers United in the Midwest, a subsidiary of Service Employees International. Union.

“It’s a movement that’s exploding across the country,” he said. “Starbucks workers are smart, they’re driven, they’re fed up. And they’re rallying across the country to make their working lives better at Starbucks.

In an emailed letter Thursday to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, Grand Blanc workers wrote that “safety has taken precedence over our store,” noting that COVID-19 policies such as hazard pay and masking for customers has ended.

Living wages are another common reason workers join the cause, McMay said.

In October, Starbucks raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour up to $23 an hour depending on location and seniority.

Starbucks’ stance on unions has been “pro-partner,” but not necessarily “pro-union.” The company argues that a union is not necessary when health care, paid vacation and tuition are already offered and employee feedback has been implemented. Starbucks calls its employees “partners” because employees who stay with the company for at least one year receive stock.

“We are listening and learning from these store partners, as we always do across the country. Our position has not changed: The success of Starbucks – past, present and future – is based on how we partner, always with our mission and values ​​at the core,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement. at MLive.

Cleveland and Chicago stores that unionize have had an increase in manager visits and frequent meetings, McMay said. Starbucks says these are meetings to listen to concerns and answer questions. McMay calls them thinly veiled attempts to dismantle unions.

“Starbucks calls its employees partners, but are they really partners when Starbucks sets all the policies, dictates wages and compensation, dictates benefits?” McMay said. “It doesn’t look like a partnership to me. It looks like a relationship between a boss and a subordinate.

Starbucks denies any accusation of union breaking.

In response to the Buffalo union vote in December, Rossann Williams, executive vice president and president of Starbucks North America, issued a statement saying that “the results of the vote will not change our common purpose or the way we will introduce ourselves to each other”.

The coffee giant is between a rock and a hard place as it markets itself as a progressive workforce and attracts young talent. McMay notes that the company’s support of Black Lives Matter, environmental and LGBTQ+ causes makes it “off-brand” for the company to stand in the way of workers’ rights.

Anisimova said Starbucks’ younger, more liberal workforce works to the union’s advantage. Anisimova, who is 25, says young people are “destroying the bad education” of older, union-busting generations.

Staff shortages and burnout in the service industry are also fanning the flames, she said. She thinks the Starbucks unions will set off a domino effect for other food and retail chains.

“People want change,” she said. “A lot of that change is going to come from the service industry. I feel like we’re on the eclipse of a whole labor movement when it comes to the industry.

Learn more about MLive:

In the face of a pandemic, more Michigan workers have turned to unions

Kellogg’s union approves new contract ending strike after 11 weeks

The Year of the Worker: Michiganians Didn’t Leave the Workforce, They Just Got Better Jobs

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