Seattle Starbucks workers win unionization vote

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/Devonyu

A Seattle Starbucks became the city’s only company-owned store to unionize following a unanimous vote announced by the National Labor Relations Board on March 23. Workers at the Starbucks at Broadway and East Denny Way in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood join their colleagues in Buffalo, New York who became the Seattle-based coffee company’s first employees to successfully unionize since December 

The Capitol Hill location is the seventh Starbucks store in the US set to join Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, while workers at six other Seattle locations have signaled plans to join the organized labor push. Workers at more than 100 stores across the country say they want to unionize. The company owns about 9,000 stores. 

Workers at the Capitol Hill location said they were organizing because they wanted improvements to healthcare coverage and more input in company policies, and because they saw unionizing as a “fundamental and necessary way to participate in Starbucks and its future as partners,” according to the Seattle Times. 

Starbucks’s Seattle-based corporate headquarters has long opposed unionization efforts at its company-owned locations. However, amid ongoing labor shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic in which their job duties are considered an “essential” service, the workers enjoy a stronger bargaining position. 

Union membership will give the employees collective bargaining rights, or the ability to negotiate with Starbucks management about pay and working conditions.

The next step for workers at the Capitol Hill store will be negotiating a contract with the company. The Seattle Times reported that the workers will likely demand a pay increase, the option for customers to leave tips on credit card orders, more consistent staffing and “more affordable healthcare that isn’t based on hours worked,” according to Sydney Durkin, a shift supervisor at the Capitol Hill store. Currently, employees have to work an average of about about 20 hours per week to secure healthcare benefits.

Emery Reddy helps workers. Call us if you have questions about worker protection laws, or if you have an L&I, workers’ comp, injury, or other employment law claim. You won’t get better advice.

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