September 26, 2023


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‘This movement is not stopping’

‘This movement is not stopping’

For Starbucks (SBUX) Seattle Shift Supervisor Sydney Durkin, the unanimous vote to unionize at the company’s hometown location was a symbolic one.

“It’s immense, Starbucks’s presence in the city is really huge. It really looms over,” Durkin told Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “It’s one of the largest employers in the city and to really bring it to Starbucks’s doorstep is a huge moment. It’s letting them know that this movement is not stopping, and it’s certainly not stopping at their doorstep.”

The Broadway & Denny Starbucks location was the seventh in the country to unionize. The first unionized corporate location occurred in Buffalo, New York, after a highly publicized battle with corporate officials. As of March 24, there are 155 Starbucks union elections that are in process at the Board at the moment and there are 70 unfair labor practice cases open against Starbucks.

Out of 13 eligible voters in a National Labor Relations Board vote held Tuesday, nine Broadway & Denny Starbucks workers voted in favor of the measure, none voted against the measure, and one vote was challenged by the Seattle-based coffee giant’s corporate counsel.

“I haven’t been at work, but we have received a letter from our regional vice president basically saying, ‘Oh, thanks for voting, sorry that you voted for that way, that’s really sad,'” Durkin said. “They’re very like ‘Oh, we’re sorry for you for voting this way,’ but otherwise they’ve kind of left us alone. They haven’t said anything really direct. We expect there to be further response here in the next few days though.”

Members react during Starbucks union vote in Buffalo, New York, U.S., December 9, 2021.  REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario

Members react during Starbucks union vote in Buffalo, New York, U.S., December 9, 2021. REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario

Now that the store is unionized, the workers will need to negotiate with the company for a contract. Durkin said there are a few things that will be brought to the table.

“One of the first things we’re bargaining for is just for them to agree to stop union busting, to sign the fair view principles,” Durkin explained, adding: “We don’t expect them to do that.”

Another pain point is the tipping system.

“We are looking for credit card tipping without loss of wages,” Durkin said. “Currently, we do not allow credit card tipping, which is how most people pay, which is a large loss of wages for us.”

Digital tipping is available for customers who are using a credit card that’s saved on the Starbucks app, according to a Starbucks spokesperson. Customers have the option to tip when they are placing an order ahead of time and can also tip with cash when they pick up their order from the store or drive-through.

“We are working on offering tipping for credit card transactions at the register for both the cafe and drive-throughs,” a Starbucks spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.

Workers are also requesting “free and improved health care,” Durkin said. “Currently, the premiums are extremely pretty much sky-high at this company, even though they do offer health insurance.”

SEATTLE, UNITED STATES - 2022/03/23: A pro-union poster is seen on a lamp pole outside Starbucks' Broadway and Denny location in Seattle's Seattle's Capitol Hill neighbourhood. The Starbucks store voted to unionize on March 22, marking the first successful unionization vote at a Starbucks location in the coffee chain's hometown. (Photo by Toby Scott/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A pro-union poster is seen on a lamp pole outside Starbucks’ Broadway and Denny location in Seattle’s Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighbourhood. (Photo by Toby Scott/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Lastly, according to Durkin, workers are “looking at wage increases across the board, especially in areas that are not caught up to places like Seattle that have higher wages.” Though wage increases would be welcome in Seattle as well, she added, “as they’re still not quite enough to live.”

Last year, Starbucks said that the coffee giant would raise wages for U.S. hourly workers to nearly $17 per hour — up from the current $12 rate — by the summer of 2022. Furthermore, as of late January 2022, employees with two or more years of service could receive up to a 5% raise, and partners with five or more years of experience could receive up to a 10% raise.

In recent days, investors from Trillium Asset Management have urged the coffee company to adopt a policy of neutrality for workers attempting to unionize.

“Investors should absolutely be on our side and should be wanting this,” Durkin said. “When you have employees that are happy to be there, you and have employees that are productive, [and] that are protected, that feel safe and secure in their workplace, they turn in a better product.”

Starbucks has consistently opposed unionization. And with former CEO Howard Schultz announcing that he would be returning to his former role on an interim basis, Durkin has a message for the incoming CEO.

“While you’ve been effective in the past at union busting, this is a completely different campaign and a completely different set of circumstances that I don’t really think he’s prepared for,” Durkin said. “And I think if he’s walking into this expecting to be able to use his old union busting tactics on this current movement, he’s going to be sorely disappointed,” she added.

Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @daniromerotv

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