SEATTLE — It’s not the first Seattle-area Starbucks to file for unionization, but it may be the most well-known store to do it.
Representatives from the Starbucks Workers United movement confirm that employees at the Seattle Starbucks Reserve Roastery have filed for unionization. The roastery is the 81st store in the nation to file for a union election, and the fourth in Seattle. Previously, the Starbucks at Broadway and Denny, the Westlake drive-thru and 5th and Pike stores all filed for unionization.
Though the flagship roastery’s filing hits the company close to home, the union effort largely stems from all the way across the country, starting with a successful union drive at a store in Buffalo, N.Y. Stores in 24 states have since filed their own union election petitions, and many more are in the process of doing so, the Starbucks Workers United said.
Roughly 90 partners are employed at the Capitol Hill Roastery. In a testimony shared by the Workers United movement, one of those employees said unionization would better protect worker health and safety.
“I have never seen so much passion and talent in one building, yet it is so often squashed by the crushing reminder that we are dispensable to our company,” said Reserve Roastery partner Melissa Slabaugh. “Unionizing will give a voice to everyone and allow a pathway for real change that will make our partners happier, which will allow us to best give the Roastery experience that so many people around the world expect when they come in to visit us.”
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In the past, Starbucks has declined to comment directly on the Seattle unionization effort, but it has broadly pushed back on unionization. In December, the company published a letter to employees at its 8,000 stores saying Starbucks did not want stores to unionize, but will respect the legal process.
Behind the scenes, the Starbucks Workers United movement says Starbucks has “aggressively adopted an anti-union stance”, accusing the company of using intimidation, lies and scare tactics to curtail the unionization effort.
“We urge you to sign the Fair Election Principles brought forth by our fellow baristas across the nation, and come to the bargaining table with us in good faith,” said members of the organizing committee in a letter to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson. “We look forward to an even stronger working relationship in the near future.”
While the company pushes back, the City of Seattle, meanwhile, has signed on to support the union movement. Just last week, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution to express solidarity with the unionizing workers, The Seattle Times reported. The resolution was sponsored by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who has spoken out several times now in favor of unionizing workers, and decried Starbucks’ “union busting” efforts.
“Today’s YES vote by the City Council on this resolution from my office makes Seattle the first city to demand that Starbucks corporate executives and billionaires stop their shameful union busting, intimidation, and firings of courageous workers, and accept majority union votes at their stores,” Sawant said in a statement following the vote. “Progressive and socialist elected representatives in every city should tell Starbucks to stop union busting!”