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Starbucks employees plan to unionize at 2 more Northeast Ohio locations

Posted at 9:30 AM, Feb 18, 2022

CLEVELAND — Starbucks employees from a store in Cleveland and a store in Cleveland Heights announced plans to unionize, stating they will file with the National Labor Relations Board later today, according to a news release from the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board (CMRJB).

The stores are located at 11623 Clifton Blvd. in Cleveland and at 3093 Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights.

The CMRJB said the employees interested in forming a union at the two stores sent the following statement to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson:

"Kevin, we saw record-breaking revenue growth of 19%, for a total of $8.1 billion this first quarter. Yet many of us are unable to make our monthly payments, afford groceries and childcare, or self-sustain due to unlivable wages and cut hours. We … are at risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19 to our fellow partners and loved ones. The inadequate policies for only five days of paid isolation and a limit of two paid isolations per quarter are unrealistic and unsupportive of our needs.. Furthermore, we are trained to reward and accommodate customers even at the expense of our mental and emotional well-being. We beg for simple adjustments like credit card tipping, yet district managers respond with blanket statements such as “Yeah that’s frustrating,” without ever enacting change or following up… We cannot pour from an empty cup… If we truly are partners and our well-being is important to you, you will side with us in this effort to unionize."

According to the CMRJB, a "majority" of eligible employees at the two locations signed the letter.

“They call us partners, but for a number of years, we don’t feel like partners because we know partnerships come together for mutual interests and look out for one another and we don’t feel that's [been happening],” said Richard Trojanski, a barista at the Cleveland Heights location.

Employees are called partners because they're eligible to receive an annual grant of company stock. The moniker has also been seen as a way to foster a sense of equality and a cohesive mission.

“Our CEO always talks about how there are two empty seats at the table whenever they have a discussion. And one of those seats is for the barista," said Kylie Anthony, a barista at the Clifton Boulevard store. "But that seat is metaphorical. So we’re ready to finally have an actual seat and make an actual difference and let our voices be heard.”

Workers at both stores explained the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted what they believe is a lack of partner input on corporate policies and store-level needs.

“We often voiced our concerns, especially during the pandemic, just about partner safety and customer safety," Trojanski said. "It was as if we were talking to a brick wall.”

Laurel Brown, a barista at the same store, added, “If their rhetoric wasn’t so ‘partners first’ and ‘we want to be progressive,’ I don’t think we would feel as disappointed in the company as we are.”

Baristas at both stores said they enjoy working for the company and hope unionizing will make the experience even better.

“Our store is very close-knit and I just feel like everyone has each other's best interests in mind. We really want each other to succeed and feel comfortable in the store,” Brown said.

The stores' intent to unionize follows a similar push from workers at a Starbucks located at 1374 West 6th Street in Cleveland. That store's petition to unionize was a significant milestone for Starbucks workers wanting to join the Starbucks Workers United movement as it marked the first time Ohio employees of the chain have asked the NLRB for a union vote.

“We are excited to welcome our friends at the Clifton and MayLee stores into our fight! We are stronger together, and every day we are one step closer to securing justice and equity in our workplaces. We couldn’t be prouder of all of our partners involved in making this happen for themselves today," said West 6th Street Barista and Union Organizing Committee member Maddie VanHook.

The West 6th Street workers had their first meeting with NLRB last week. Partners at the other two Northeast Ohio stores filed for elections Friday afternoon and expect to vote whether to unionize in 6-8 weeks.

A spokesperson for Starbucks shared the following statement:

We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country. 

From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed. Starbucks success—past, present, and future—is built on how we partner together, always with Our Mission and Values at our core. 

As Rossann Williams, evp and president, North America, [shared] with our partners “the vote outcomes will not change our shared purpose or how we will show up for each other. … We will keep listening, we will keep connecting and we will keep being in service of one another because that’s what we’ve always done and what it means to be partner.” 
Starbucks spokesperson

The movement of the Starbucks Workers United has been seen across the country, with stores unionizing in Boston, Chicago, Seattle, and Buffalo, among other cities. CMRJB estimates close to 100 stores have signaled their intents to unionize.

The CMRJB of Workers United represents around 4,000 members in Ohio in numerous fields.


Cleveland Starbucks workers file for unionization, aiming to be first Starbucks union in Ohio

Starbucks location in Buffalo becomes coffee chain's first US store to vote to unionize

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