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Starbucks Workers in Chicago, Colorado Join Growing Union Push

Jan. 5, 2022, 8:48 PM

Starbucks Corp. workers in Chicago and Colorado are seeking to unionize two more stores, bringing organized labor’s push to organize the coffee giant to two new metropolitan areas after a major win in New York state.

Two dozen workers in suburban Denver and 16 in Chicago have filed petitions with the federal labor board to hold union elections. The employees are backed by Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union that won a union election at a Starbucks store in Buffalo, N.Y., last month.

“In Solidarity with partners in Buffalo, Boston, Knoxville, and all those organizing nationwide, we believe there can be no true partnership without power-sharing and equal accountability,” the Chicago workers wrote in a letter to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson. “It’s for this reason we are organizing a union at our store.”

The Buffalo Starbucks on Dec. 9 became the first of nearly 9,000 corporate-owned stores in the U.S. to unionize. On Wednesday, the workers there staged a walkout to protest unsafe working conditions due to Covid-19. The company has mandated that all workers be vaccinated or get tested weekly by Feb. 9 in order to comply with federal rules.

The union victory sparked a wave of organizing as Starbucks workers at half a dozen stores filed similar petitions in Massachusetts, Seattle, Tennessee, and other places in New York state. Election results at two other locations near Buffalo are in limbo pending challenges from both parties.

The company said last month it would bargain with the Buffalo union, which was certified by the National Labor Relations Board, but would continue to oppose unions at other stores.

“From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we do not want a union between us as partners, and that conviction has not changed,” Rossann Williams, an executive vice president and president of North America for Starbucks, told employees in a letter last month.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ian Kullgren in Washington at ikullgren@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com