What we know so far

Starbucks employees at a Mesa store hoped to see the results of their union election on Wednesday, but a request from Starbucks delayed the vote count.

The Mesa cafe, at the southeast corner of Power and Baseline roads, could become the first Starbucks in Arizona, and the third in the country, to unionize after stores in Buffalo, New York, began to organize in the summer of 2021.

Starbucks employees and supporters from other unions gathered in Mesa to watch the vote count in a virtual conference. But the count has been postponed.

The National Labor Relations Board has not issued a decision on Starbucks’ request to review who may be eligible for union representation. Until the council does so, the votes will not be counted.

“It just slipped through our hands,” said Starbucks barista Miranda Romero. “I feel like this is just another big union busting tactic to delay the count.”

A spokesperson for the NLRB wrote in an email to The Arizona Republic that the board does not have an update on when it will make a decision.

A wave of organizing efforts at Starbucks across the country

The Mesa store election came amid a flurry of campaigns at Starbucks stores across the country that are unionize with Workers Unitedaffiliated with the Service Employees International Union.

Since August 30, 2021, workers at more than 80 Starbucks stores have filed for a union election, according to the NLRB.

After the Power and Baseline store filed for election in November 2021, workers at two other Arizona stores — one in Mesa and one in Phoenix — also announced they were unionizing. They have not yet filed for an election.

Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges declined to comment on the growing number of stores unionizing.

“Eyes are on us”: Why Mesa Workers Fought For Arizona’s First Unionized Starbucks

Why was the Starbucks union election delayed?

Both part-time and full-time Starbucks baristas and shift managers were eligible to vote in the Power and Baseline store election. The NLRB mailed the ballots on Jan. 19, and workers had until Feb. 2 to return their votes to the agency.

The vote count was scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m.

On January 24, Starbucks asked the NLRB to review the decision that allows workers at the one-stop shop to unionizeaccording to documents filed with the agency.

The company argued that all baristas and shift managers in the geographic district of the Mesa store, which is made up of 14 stores, should be allowed to vote for union representation.

Starbucks executives believe “every partner should have a voice” and so it should be a market-wide election, not just a store-wide one, Borges told The Republic.

On February 4, Workers United challenged the review. Starbucks had made a similar request for its Buffalo stores, which was denied.

Because the labor board had not rendered a decision at the time of the vote count, the regional office seized the ballots to be counted at a later date, an NLRB spokesperson told The Republic.

If the council issues a decision allowing the count to continue, the regional office can reschedule the count relatively soon after, the spokesperson added.

Michelle Eisen, a barista at a Starbucks in Buffalo’s Elmwood Village — the first Starbucks store in the nation to unionize — joined Mesa workers on Wednesday. Eisen said she thinks it’s unfair to consolidate multiple Starbucks stores into one vote because not all stores are ready or willing to unionize.

Understaffing and stagnating wages prompted workers at the Power and Baseline store to unionize, catalyzed by the alleged abuse of former Starbucks manager who quit after feeling compelled to work while ill. Workers also told The Republic they were unhappy with the pay disparity among tenured employees.

If the Power and Baseline store unionized, workers would have the power to collectively bargain with Starbucks on a contract that determines their working conditions and benefits.

Opposite planes: Starbucks fights against expansion of unionization effort in its stores

Starbucks Responds to Organizing Efforts

Starbucks has created a website to explain why the company wants workers to vote against unionization.

“We don’t believe having a union will significantly change or solve the problems you have identified in your stores,” the website says. “We know we’re not perfect, but we believe our challenges are best met by working together.”

Power and Baseline store barista Veronica Brown said Starbucks officials shared a similar message in her store.

“Essentially the way Starbucks responded was the same in Buffalo and other stores that petitioned. They put us through a bunch of really pointless meetings,” Brown said.

Managers used group meetings, which Starbucks calls “listening sessions,” to persuade them to vote no, Brown said. Managers also lured workers into one-on-one meetings, Brown added.

Shift supervisors Liz Alanna and Michelle Hejduk also shared screenshots of text messages and emails sent from Starbucks encouraging them to vote no.

2 more Starbucks stores in Arizona go public with labor campaigns

Two other Starbucks coffee shops in the Valley have announced their union campaigns: a store in Mesa at the southwest corner of Crismon Road and Southern Avenue, as well as a store in North Phoenix near the northwest corner of Scottsdale Road and Mayo Blvd.

Both stores have yet to file for election.

Bill Whitmire, shift supervisor at the Scottsdale and Mayo store, said he and other workers were motivated to unionize when they saw other Starbucks workers expressing their concerns.

He thinks having a contract will put processes in place to ensure a fairer workplace.

“Instead of management telling us to take it or leave it, we could sit down at the table with management and raise our concerns about how our schedules work, our benefits, and our compensation.”

Contact the reporter at Priscilla.Totiya@azcentral.com. Follow @priscillatotiya on Twitter and instagram.

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