Starbucks Labor Campaign Reaches 5 Chicago Area Locations

A labor organizing campaign among Starbucks workers that began locally in a downtown store has spread to four other locations in the Chicago area.

Working with an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, employees applied to the National Labor Relations Board for elections to certify their bargaining rights. The NLRB, which organizes union authorization elections, has not yet decided when Chicago-area workers will be able to vote.

Starbucks employees at 155 N. Wabash Ave. were the first in the region to submit their candidacy for a union election. They submitted their petition late last year. Since then, staff at two other stores in Chicago and two in the suburbs have called for elections.

Chicago stores are at Logan Square, 2543 N. California Ave., and Hyde Park, 1174 E. 55and St. Suburban locations are 38 S. La Grange Road, La Grange and 620 Northwest Highway, Cary.

The local organization is part of a nationwide campaign by Workers United, an affiliate of SEIU, which has attracted interest from staff at about 100 Starbucks across the United States. Organizers said the effort gained momentum in early December when workers at two Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, voted to unionize.

“It’s been totally a movement — very local,” said Carlos Ginard, assistant manager of the Chicago branch of Workers United. He said store workers had already started building solidarity before contacting the union.

“It’s very admirable to see young workers getting organised. It’s a breath of fresh air for the labor movement,” said Ginard.

The five Chicago-area stores have about 115 workers wanting to join a union, said Grace Easterby, an organizer with Workers United.

Jasper Booth-Hodges, a barista at the Hyde Park store, said he supported the union even though he liked its managers and the way his establishment operated. “Things can get better, but they can also get worse,” he said. “The union means we have a say in how things work.”

One area for improvement, he said, is a leave policy requiring employees to be on staff for a year before taking time off.

The company argued that employees – partners, in its corporate parlance – do not need a union. He said he supports employees who want to organize, but he took a stance during the NLRB hearings that union supporters say is a delaying tactic, giving him more time to pressure employees for them to vote no.

Starbucks argued that union elections should not be held in individual stores, but in stores grouped by corporate districts. The NLRB, however, rejected that argument in the Buffalo organization and in the pending cases in Arizona.

A company spokesperson declined to say whether Starbucks would drop its per-district voting arguments, but stressed it would respect NLRB decisions and negotiate in good faith, as required by law.

“We are listening and learning from these store partners as we always do across the country,” the spokesperson said. “The success of Starbucks – past, present and future – depends on how we come together, always with our mission and values ​​at the heart of our concerns. Our belief is that we are better together as partners, without union between us, and that belief has not changed.

Starbucks has about 9,000 stores in the United States, so the union effort is still only part of its operations. But it marks a rare union foray into food and drink chains, a business segment with many young workers, often students, and with frequent turnover.

But Easterby said some Starbucks employees have at least five years of tenure.

Some Starbucks benefits, such as tuition reimbursement and paid parental leave, are considered progressive for retail or restaurant businesses. Workers said some benefits can be improved and could start immediately rather than after a minimum level of service time.

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