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Starbucks employees celebrate after voting to unionize

Starbucks employees celebrate after voting to unionize on December 9, 2021 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo: Eleonore Sens/AFP via Getty Images)

'Next!' Starbucks Union Drive Spreads to Massachusetts, Arizona

"We want the company to succeed," organizers of the Mesa unionization effort said, "and we want our work lives to be the best they can be."

Brett Wilkins

Inspired by the successful unionization of workers at two Buffalo, New York Starbucks stores last week, employees at a pair of the chain's Boston-area locations—one in the city's Allston neighborhood and the other in Brookline—requested votes this week to join the Workers United union.

"We see this as an opportunity for us to empower one another and get treated as partners by the company."

In a letter to company CEO Kevin Johnson, members of the Starbucks Workers United (SWU) organizing committee wrote that "like the partners in Buffalo, Arizona, and beyond, we believe that there can be no true partnership without power-sharing and accountability. We are organizing a union in Boston because we believe that this is the best way to contribute meaningfully to our partnership with the company."

The letter added that the unionization effort is part of the workers' "commitment to making Starbucks, Boston, and the world a better place."

"We stand firmly in our belief that a union can provide our hardworking partners the justice and equality they deserve while also enriching the company," the authors wrote.

Starbucks expects to earn a record $29 billion in revenue this year.

Workers United—which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)—has also filed for votes at three Buffalo-area Starbucks stores and one in Mesa, Arizona. While employees of Buffalo's Elmwood location last week voted 19-8 to unionize, the Camp Road store—which, according to More Perfect Union, "was targeted by Starbucks union-busters more than any other store"—rejected unionization.

Employees at both Massachusetts locations told The Boston Globe that while they like working at Starbucks, they are seeking higher pay and an end to at-will employment, which allows the company to fire them without cause.

"Starbucks is a great company to work at, but we think it could be even better," Allston barista and union organizing committee member Kylah Clay told the Globe. "Our stores could be even stronger if the baristas on the ground—the people on the floor—had more say. We see this as an opportunity for us to empower one another and get treated as partners by the company."

Brookline barista and organizing committee member Jasper Torres said that "a common misconception, and a narrative that's being pushed by Starbucks right now, is that unions only form when there's a bad work environment, which isn't the case."

"I like my store. I really like my co-workers, and I like the environment," they added. "But I still want to unionize because I want a democratic environment for everyone to work in."

Employees at the Mesa, Arizona store—where SWU claimed a whistleblowing manager was terminated after alerting her team to the company's union-busting efforts—also expressed pro-Starbucks sentiments.

"We want the company to succeed," the SWU organizing committee said, "and we want our work lives to be the best they can be."

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